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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Malawi internet name row
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Malawians say they cannot access the .mw domain, but this address is registered to a Swede
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

There is a fizzling wrangle in Malawi over who are the rightful administrators of the country's top-level internet domain.

Malawian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are accusing a South African national of hijacking it.

Now the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has joined the fray.

Macra, a body set aside by an Act of Parliament in 1999 to regulate telecommunications in Malawi, is battling to repossess the domain from the entrepreneur.


Macra says Chris Cope Morgan registered the national domain - ".mw" - in the name of his private company but left Malawi in 1998.

He took advantage of our ignorance

Since then, no ISP in Malawi has been able to connect customers to the domain which is the most important in the country.

In a statement, Macra said: "He took advantage of our ignorance and registered the domain in his name because the Malawi Posts and Telecommunications did not see the importance of the internet in the country at that time."

"He hijacked it," Macra said.

"No restrictions"

But Mr Morgan denies hijacking the ".mw" domain and says the issue is being blown out of proportion.

Former President Banda
Malawi is technologically backward - under the late President Banda even television was outlawed
"It is available to everyone in the country, there are no restrictions.

"I am surprised Malawians have the impression that the domain was hijacked," he said in a published rejection.

He says when he registered the name Malawi did not have appropriate legislation or infrastructure.

Government appeal

Macra has now engaged the US-based internet authority, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), to help it repossess the domain.

We know also that finally this domain will be given to a rightful representative in the country

Bessie Nyirenda of Malawi Net
Malawi's ISPs are being affected by the missing '.mw' domain.

For instance, Peter Mpinganjira, an entrepreneur who wanted to start Malawi's third ISP, had to delay the launch because he could not establish the .mw domain's administrator.

The disputed domain is hosted in the United States and, according to Macra and all ISPs in Malawi, can no longer be accessed in Malawi.

In an e-mail to Mr Morgan, consultant Paul Vrdoljak warned: "Macra intends to host the domain ".mw" and is the right body to do this.

"There have been a number of legal cases worldwide concerning the hijacking of domains based on company names."

No rush

Mr Morgan says he has no problem with the administration of ".mw" going to someone else, but he warns Malawians against rushing things.

"Malawi's internet community is still evolving. It is therefore recommended that the people of Malawi set up a representative body, in conjunction with Macra, and pool resources together to manage the hosting and administration of Internet services in Malawi," he says.

But ISPs in Malawi say it should not be the responsibility of an outsider.

Bessie Nyirenda, chief executive of the ISP Malawi Net says her ISP wholly supports Macra's efforts to repossess the domain.

"According to IANA polices, Mr Morgan should have surrendered the domain to someone resident in the country when he was leaving the country," she says.

Ms Nyirenda claims Mauritius had a similar dispute which was finally resolved in favour of the country representative.

"We know also that finally this domain will be given to a rightful representative in the country," she says.

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