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Augustin Hibaile: Fighting Corruption

Augustin Hibaile is the executive director of CIDEL (International Center for the Development of Ethical Leadership), a nonprofit NGO he recently established in the Central African Republic (CAR). Its goal is to teach against corruption in business and government in the CAR and surrounding countries. CIDEL was started early in 2005.

Augustin is a former professor of graduate theology. He also was nominated by the minister of the interior of the Central African Republic in 1993 to become a police department chaplain, and he became convinced that something needed to be done to fight the rampant corruption. He found a way to get funding for training from Pointman Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization for veterans. He received his training in South Africa in 2003.

In early 2005, he left his position with the theological school and is a full time volunteer with CIDEL until such time as the business is built to where he can be paid. He submitted his training material to the government, and while awaiting approval as an official NGO, began doing regional seminars and seminars in neighboring countries. The approval was received August 10, 2006. Augustin has a D.Min. in theology from a seminary in the United States, where he came for training in the early 1990s.

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Ethix: You just returned from doing ethics seminars in the Congo?

Augustin Hibaile: Yes. I was invited by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to join the Pointman Leadership Institute’s team to present leadership and anti-corruption seminars to senior officers of the army, police, and civilian administrators in June 2006. We teach principle-based leadership and the importance of ethics. In the seminar, we define the main principles of leadership and ethics, and we develop the difference between a leader and a manager. We want to help leaders to see inside their life and to improve their behavior so that people can trust them and follow them, even when they are not being watched. So our seminars are based on eight character traits that we try to develop and to teach the people:

  • Integrity
  • Courage
  • Loyalty
  • Optimism
  • Conviction
  • Discipline
  • Diligence
  • Humility

What are your hopes for these seminars? Is the Democratic Republic of the Congo corrupt at this point?

Augustin Hibaile: Yes. We made a short graph from 0 percent to 100 percent, and we divided it from mediocre behavior (0 percent) to criminal behavior (100 percent). Criminal behavior puts people in corruption. We asked them to help us understand the extent of corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They said it’s beyond 100 percent.

After the seminar, they say that they did try to put into practice everything they learned, and they discovered that corruption has consequence on the nation, family, organization, and every individual. I believe that we have planted some seeds in the hearts of people. Even with vegetable seeds, when they are planted they take time to grow.

But we believe that if something is planted in DRC that in the future we can see the result that will be positive in the life of many people. They invited us to come back in 2007 to do other seminars for the parliament and the government members.

Tell us about the situation here in the Central African Republic. Is the corruption as great as it is in the DRC, or is it less?

When we talk about integrity, we were told by one person, ‘But integrity doesn’t feed my sick child.’

During the past 10 years, the moral situation of the country has been declining, and the corruption is a concern in many sectors and many departments. We are also dealing with the fact that many in government have not been paid in 40 months. When we talk about integrity, we were told by one person, “But integrity doesn’t feed my sick child.” So he thought that the easiest way to get money from other people was to force people to give him money before he would do any favor for them. We understand the difficulties here, and know we will not achieve 100 percent success without salaries being taken care of. But we must start someplace.

So I hope that there is a hope for the future in this country.

What do you want to accomplish in the Central African Republic with your organization?

My organization targets professionals in different departments. We have already organized seminars for police officers and the senior officers from the army. We have also done a couple of seminars at the University of Bangui. In August, we had another seminar on anticorruption for the leaders from the university. After my NGO is recognized by the government, we will extend our seminar to different parts of the country. I was requested by a governor of a state to go into his state, and try to do this seminar, because he heard about the testimony of a governor who kneeled down after the seminar and asked for forgiveness to the people that he leads. He said that the seminar was very powerful, and what he learned changed his life. So the word is beginning to spread.

What will it take to improve the economic climate here and allow businesses to grow up so that people will be able to get jobs?

I think the first thing is to work with the top leaders. When a businessman comes and tries to work here, some leaders from the government try to ask him for some percentage for themselves. That is the key issue that discourages many investors. In CIDEL, we try to explain the consequences of corruption to these leaders. Most of the people we talk with are not trained in economics, business knowledge, or ethics. So I think training can be one of the ways to try to help the economics of the country.

Can you identify some other barriers to economic growth here?

The lack of means of transportation in this country creates a lot of frustration for most of the people, even those who are in authority. They always travel by public transportation. I think you have discovered that transportation here is a small car for maybe five people, with 20 people inside. People die because of the accidents. If the roads were fixed and transportation is easy, people in different villages could bring their food and what they have to try to sell to the capital city. But people cannot even bring their food to the marketplace because of the problems with the roads.

Informal checkpoint where officials with guns detain traffic for inspection and to collect fees.

We were also told that there are many checkpoints, so it takes a long time for trucks to get over the roads because they have to stop often.

Yes. This was established when a lot the administration’s cars and trucks were stolen by people after the mutinies in 1996, so they established those barriers just to check the cars to see if they belonged to the government. But it’s become a custom. It’s become something that is normal, and it’s lasting till today. The military and the police, who are stopping the cars on the road, try to get their salary because they are not paid. So most of the travelers face a lot of problems on the road. Travelers have no freedom to travel. This also hinders investment because this control from the police and army stands in the way of economic efficiency. I appreciate the efforts that are being done by the government to solve the traffic problem by destroying the illegal checkpoints.

What are other concerns about business?

We had a textile industry here in CAR 20 years ago, run by the state. The state is a poor manager. So management controls were not used. Basic management appointments were made by political connections, not ability. And so the company failed. When you go to the airport, you will see the buildings on the right side of the road that used to be the textile factory. A number of organizations have tried to revive the business, but none have succeeded, perhaps because they tried to start from what was there. Even though the country is a producer of cotton, it is baled and exported.

You would need a more modern factory without top-heavy management, and a desire to come up with a lightweight textile material. It also needs to be less expensive than what is produced in Cameroon or the Congo, where the current dominant market players are located. Export and import costs could be eliminated by manufacturing here. But private company leadership is needed and standard business practices would be required. The local textile market has been invaded by outside forces, and this would need to be considered. By having good quality at a low price, you could stop the flow of outside goods.

An abandoned juice factory outside Banqui.

We also had a juice factory that is now abandoned, and other businesses that no longer continue.

What is the government doing to improve the situation?

In the past, government practice has discouraged business. But now, the government has put some incentives in place to encourage industry. New investment gives tax benefits to encourage business here. But people are very used to buying things that are already made.

Codes have been put in place to penalize both the one paying a bribe and the one receiving a bribe. But until government workers get paid, it will be a difficult problem.
I hope that there is a hope for the future in this country.
As we work with the World Bank, we must put things in place to stop corruption. Corruption stops (or greatly slows) investment here. Because CAR has lots of needs, bribery cannot be accepted here. But not being paid greatly increases the temptation.

Conditions would need to be in place to make business work here. It would need to be nationally run, as foreigners would have administrative difficulties. Really, you could create any kind of business here. But before starting, you would need a market study. You can do this by looking at the people and the style and types of clothes they prefer. You could also talk with vendors about what sells here. After assessing the market, you could then find out what kind of industry would work best. Lots of companies have come in and started businesses producing things that people don’t want to buy. The textile industry did not hit the market here — offering the same fabric produced elsewhere with poorer quality. There are similar issues for other industries like soap or sugar.

What are some of the key things that you try to employ in building an NGO from the ground up?

I started with personal contacts. As I said before, I was a police chaplain for 14 years. My contact with the police officers helped me to understand a bit the tendency to corruption among police officers in the country. Then I got connected with many professionals (men and women) in the position of authority. By explaining to them what I feel and what can be best for the country, they realize that this is something to try, so that is the foundation of CIDEL.

I’m creating more and more contacts here in Bangui in different location and in different departments. I think that when the organization is fully recognized by the government, it will give me more access to almost any place. My passion for making a difference gives me the courage to go even in front of the president and share what I have in my heart, just to bring my contribution to the development of my country.

When the program gets approved by the government, what do you hope to do in the Central African Republic?

We have different departments. One is for training, since organizing seminars in various parts of the country will be our primary activity. We have a spiritual dimension to the seminars as well, but this is strictly voluntary after we have completed the rest of the seminar.

There will also be a counseling department to have people coming into our offices, because business people have stress from family problems, workplace problems, personal problems, and spiritual problems.

We also want to have a cybercafé inside our organization to teach leaders how to use new technology. Some of our leaders are ashamed to be trained in the public cybercafé. So we want to establish a place where they can be happy to come. We will also train leaders in English to enable them to carry out business with those who don’t know French.

How are you preparing for the future in the Central African Republic?

We want to not only focus on leaders who are adults, but we also want to work with young people, because young people are the leaders of tomorrow.

So that is why we started to work in the university, and we want to develop some ethical courses that can be taught in public and private schools to try to help young people understand what is good, what is bad, and how to behave in a proper way.

We were told about 100,000 orphans in Bangui because of AIDS, and this is a tragedy. But is there an opportunity to teach character to these children so the next generation can be influenced with a new moral authority, another way of thinking?

One of the things we have discussed with ICDI is to partner with them and help provide ethics training for orphans. We would also like to train the teachers and the caregivers, because most of the organizations that work with orphans neglect these. Some relatives, caring for orphans, say publicly they are providing the care, but in reality they neglect the orphans and use the things for themselves. Again, this will require training.

What are some values that are inherent in the people of CAR that you would like in your ethics training, characteristics that you see that you can build upon to create an environment of strong ethics?

There are many. Basically, people from my country are patient. They are not like high-blood-pressure people, they know how to wait. Many of the bad activities are based on a lack of training. The schools do not provide ethics or character training. There is also a desire to love. African families know how to share with other people, and have compassion for other people who are less fortunate.

We have seen many of those characteristics. One characteristic that we have seen not very often is optimism. People seem to be more in a mode of survival, for good reason, rather than thinking about the future. Is that a fair assumption?

It is. People here think that there are certain areas where they cannot achieve. It’s white people, it’s Europeans, who can do such and such things, but Africans cannot do those things. But the reason is that they are not well trained. We don’t develop our mind to better understand what we are able to do, and further, we are surrounded by a certain percentage of people who are pessimists. If some want to make progress, others try to create barriers because they have a kind of fear of the unknown, fear of failure if they try. So we have only a few people who are working and other people stay lazy, waiting for one or two people in the family to work hard and to feed the rest of the family. This is one of the biggest problems that families have here.

What would it take to change that?

It was not this way in the past. One of the reasons why Africans have had many wives is to allow them to have many children, which could bring economic power. Children can go to your garden, to your field and work; all people in the family had to do hard work in order to improve the family. That is not the case today.

In Africa when an old man dies, it’s a library that is burnt by fire, because he died with all his knowledge. Another problem is we don’t write what we have in our mind on paper for the next generation to read. We have only verbal communication, and when you communicate verbally, people forget. In Africa, there are some people who know good things, but they don’t transmit them to their children. One African author says that in Africa when an old man dies, it’s a library that is burnt by fire, because he died with all his knowledge. So, this is why from generation to generation things change and not in the good way. We come to the course of new civilization and now we lose our roots. We don’t know exactly where we are. We cannot learn from the past, because nothing is left from the past. People have no roots. This situation has to be reversed by helping our people to value the good things from our culture. We need to train people to change their way of thinking, doing, and seeing so that they can be optimistic in confronting problems in their life.

Where did this start for you in your own thinking? Many people here do not think the way you do.

When I was 11years old, I met missionaries who came into our churches to preach. At 12 years old, I said that I will become a missionary, and I made that vow. When I was 21years old, I was in the crossroads of ministries and professions, going to the university, going to the school of administration to become a lawyer, going to a school of teachers to become an English teacher, or going to the seminary to become a pastor. I finally decided I wanted to become a pastor, and that was a shock to many people who knew me. But now I have decided that being a pastor is not enough — I need to address some of these difficult problems in my country. It is really God’s orientation and God’s guidance in my life. My wife is a partner with me in this — we have been married 25 years in September.

Congratulations!

I couldn’t do this on my own, because she is working while I am volunteering to get this started. We plan to invite friends into our home for our anniversary celebration and explain to them what it is to have a committed marriage.

We have a family that has come to stay with us to learn how to be a family, so we have a lot of people in our home. Now, we have 16 people, including the family of four living with us and two orphans. One of the orphans is from my oldest brother. He had four children. So we divided the four children in four families. My youngest brother is taking care of one of the daughters. We are delighted to train and to help people by informal teaching. Living with people, eating with them, and talking to them, creates a lifestyle of learning.

I am looking for partners who can help my NGO achieve its goals. We don’t have a headquarters yet. We want to build offices and provide logistics for the ministry but can’t afford it due to our financial situation. My strong will and faith leads me in this new adventure without a monthly salary. I wish to meet the financial need in order to accomplish the goals of our organization.

I hope that CIDEL will contribute to the development of good character in the life of many people in the Central African Republic. That many will have love for each other and work for peace and the real development of the country.

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