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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

37th meeting: Nairobi insecurity worries ICANN


Worried by increasing reports of insecurity in Kenya, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), last weekend, met in an emergency session to deliberate on the implications of the situation to its forthcoming 37th public meeting slated for March.

The leadership of ICANN’s emergency meeting, was attended mainly by board directors alongside interested internet community members from Kenya, and across the globe, who were hosted to a special meeting via teleconferencing by the chairman, ICANN board, Mr. Peter Dengate Thrush.

Although at the end of the session, ICANN President, Mr. Rod Beckstrom reiterated commitment of ICANN to host the meeting in Kenya, in spite of the events in downtown Nairobi on January 15, this year.

He stated in ICANN’s blog that employees and board directors jointly re-assessed the security situation, exploring the possibility of moving the event out of the downtown Nairobi area to a suburb, but determined that no suitable venue was available.

“We have listened to the community. Many are looking forward to Nairobi, some expressed concerns, particularly in the light of the events in downtown Nairobi on January 15. Accordingly, ICANN staff and board have reexamined the security situation,” he said.

Beckstrom also said that ICANN reached out to the Kenyan government as well as other nations with operations in Kenya for their risk assessments of the situation.

“The consistent feedback was that the overall risk assessment of Nairobi had not changed,” he said.

He said, on the ICANN chief executive officer (CEO’s) recommendation, the board has approved moving ahead with the ICANN Nairobi meeting.

At the same time, he said, ICANN recognizes that many developing country cities have higher ambient levels of street crime and much of the world including the United States (U.S.) and Europe are presently confronted by international terrorist threats and attacks.

“Both are simply facts of life. Also, as with all ICANN events, we will continue to monitor the security situation in case there are any material future changes. For any ICANN community members who do not travel to the event, remote participation will be available for many of the meetings,” he assured in a blog post dated January 22, 2010.

He disclosed that given ICANN’s commitment to “One world. One Internet, Everyone connected” they have engaged and will continue to engage with the whole world as far as this matter is concerned among others.

“We greatly appreciate the assistance of Kenya, the host country, and their commitment to address ICANN security concerns. In addition, the ICANN board has approved further security investments by the CEO as necessary for the event, and the CEO will become personally involved in reviewing the security plans,” he said, stressing that having travelled to Kenya for over six times in the past, he looks forward to participating in this ICANN session.

Additionally, Beckstrom noted that having been to Kenya six times, he looks forward to participating in this important ICANN International meeting.

Participants at the special meeting apart from the chairman and president of ICANN included directors, namely Dennis Jennings (Vice Chairman), Harald Tveit Alvestrand, Raimundo Beca, Steve Crocker, Gonzalo Navarro, Rita Rodin Johnston, Raymond A. Plzak, Rajasekhar Ramaraj, George Sadowsky, Mike Silber, Bruce Tonkin, and Katim Touray amidst some board liaison organisations.

ITRealms Online recalled that on January 15, 2010, Somalis residing in a Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh reportedly staged violent protest in the capital against the deportation of a jailed Muslim cleric throwing up the fear that it may stoke religious unrest.

Reuters report that while the protest was organised by Kenyan Muslims, many of the protesters who engaged security forces in the heart of Nairobi for over eight hours were discovered to be Somalis.

The report further indicated that some protesters carried flags identified with Somalia’s hardline Islamist rebel group al Shabaab and there were reports of mobs attacking Somalis in retribution for the mayhem.

“We warned of a situation like this. It seems Kenyan security forces are simply categorising the whole community as a terrorist group,” said cleric Sheikh Hassan Qoryoleey, stressing that was not the case.

“The majority of Somalis are peace-loving people,” he said.

The Kenyan government quickly put the blame for the violence that killed at least one person on extremist youths exposed to “foreign elements” and assured Muslims in Kenya their religious freedom and civil liberties would be respected.

Equally, it reported that parents in Eastleigh have been worried for some time that religious schools funded by Somali rebel groups have been recruiting and luring youths to Somalia.

“The (Kenyan) government has played down frequent warnings from ordinary people,” said moderate cleric Qoryoleey.

“They are repeating the mistakes of Somalia, where we played down the consequences of extreme ideology.”Madrassa (Islamic) schools and a radical 24-hour cable channel in Kenya have become new breeding and indoctrination grounds for rebel groups based in Somalia, residents were quoted as saying.

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