Radios Against Genocide

  • Overseas
  • 2010

Ever since he learned details of the Holocaust as an eighth grader, John Montgomery has been haunted by the idea of genocide, and determined to do his part to prevent it in the future. As the Houston investment firm that Montgomery helped found began to thrive, he and his wife and their Bridgeway Foundation (which receives 50 percent of the after-tax profits of his firm) became generous givers to poor people around the globe, with a particular emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa. And the central priority of Montgomery’s philanthropy is overcoming genocidal dangers, a cause to which he has devoted tens of millions of dollars.

Montgomery has supported Rwandan widows and funded the healing of wounds from that country’s tribal terrors. More recently, 90 percent of his resources were focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan—areas where the murderous warlord Joseph Kony and his LRA terror group had rampaged for years, killing thousands and abducting children to serve as soldiers or sex slaves.

In addition to funding groups that publicize LRA violence (which helps generate international backlash), Montgomery became directly involved in stopping killings. In 2010 he suggested that imperiled villagers could be warned of impending attacks if a radio network were built in the remote region, so residents could flee before fighters arrived. Montgomery and Bridgeway equipped tribal chiefs in the area with radio transmitters, receivers, and towers, so information on the movements of Kony’s men could be quickly shared.

Thereafter, when militants approached villages, locals faded into the forest, saving many lives and avoiding the kidnapping of their children. The radio network also yielded intelligence which helped authorities track Kony, forcing him to be more reclusive. Rebel commanders began to defect and be killed. The U.S. detailed 100 soldiers to the area, and the LRA threat receded.

“There is a spiritual aspect to this to me,” Montgomery told Philanthropy magazine, “a life calling. There are people dying.”