Between American funds, mining companies, the dissident Congolese army and the somewhat too voluntary Ugandan army, the eastern border of the DRC is a real quagmire. An American foundation takes advantage of the chaos ...
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the American Bridgeway Foundation is omnipresent. Many politicians are familiar with this foundation. But few know what its real mission is. An entity difficult to define. Between intelligence and the fight against terrorism, the American fund seems to have established itself over time in the DRC.
Enough to further annoy the Kinshasa aristocracy, which thought it had got rid of the Americans for a few years. Nevertheless, the suspension of Chinese mining contracts, decided by Tshisekedi, opened the door to an American return. And the security threat in eastern DRC has taken the form of a hostile takeover bid. Among the potential buyers: the Bridgeway fund.
What is the Bridgeway Fund?
Officially, the Bridgeway fund is a branch of the financial conglomerate of American billionaire John Montgomery. In addition to the lucrative activities of the group, made up of investment funds or pension management and mainly based in the south of the United States, Montgomery has made its Bridgeway fund a "charitable foundation".
But in fact, since its creation in 2000, the Bridgeway fund has only appeared in Africa, more precisely in Uganda, in 2010. Through its CEO Shannon Sedgwick Davis, Bridgeway has funded another American NGO, Invisible Children, created by Laren Poole. Invisible Children is known for fueling a propaganda campaign to dismantle the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda and offering rewards for the arrest of its leaders, including Joseph Kony, who is still at large from elsewhere.
According to an Africa Intelligence survey, the Bridgeway fund works closely with the Ugandan authorities, who know that this fund has financed Invisible Children and two other NGOs with the same objectives, Aegis Trust and Resolve Uganda. The money was used, in particular, to gather information which led to the arrest of several LRA leaders and the defection of a majority of the fighters of the terrorist group.
The model developed by Invisible Children and its leader Laren Poole quickly gave ideas to Bridgeway, who recruited Poole and, with him, a whole team made up of, among others, former senior CIA officers. All of them have extensive experience in information warfare. As the right-hand man of the Bridgeway Fund's COO, and former Invisible Children creator Laren Poole: Tara Candland. The latter was an advisor to the African division of the CIA's counterterrorism directorate (CTC), then coordinator for the fight against terrorism at the US State Department.
Downplaying the link between the Allied Democratic Forces and the Islamic State will only endanger civilians, Shannon Sedgwick Davis and Tara Candland write.https://t.co/QoABieI3tk
- Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) November 30, 2021
Bridgeway, a discreet presence in the DRC
Often referred to as too close to Ugandan power, the Bridgeway fund has used external partners to enter the DRC. First, he enlisted Human Rights Watch DRC specialist Ida Sawyer, with whom he had collaborated during the Invisible Children operation. Next, Bridgeway began funding the Congo Study Group (GEC), a project attached to the Center for International Cooperation at New York University.
The CEG and Ida Sawyer, in turn, launched the Kivu Security Barometer - Kivu Security Tracker (KST) - in 2017. Today, this “network of specialists and researchers” provides all the information on terrorist attacks in eastern DRC. His analyzes are also taken up by the majority of the international media.
Where this network, whose legality is highly questionable, exceeds its prerogatives, it is by providing the only two public reports to date which detail the activity of the armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). And since the first report, dating from 2018, KST has described the ADF as “Islamist terrorists”. In February 2021, KST's second report on the armed group even accused the ADF of being affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist organization.
This information was first released by the US State Department and was used to categorize ADF as a terrorist group by the United States. Then, it was the turn of the Congolese state, neighboring countries, and the media around the world to take up this information. And although a UN group of experts produced a report denying any relationship between the ADF and Daesh, it was too late.
Helen Epstein recently wrote about roughly this trend applied to the Kony campaign, and more recently efforts by NGO actors to get the US to label the ADF a foreign terrorist organization https://t.co/taBteeE3wI
- Jesse Copelyn (@JesseCopelyn) May 1, 2021
The ADF, responsible for all evils
It should be understood that the ADF did indeed commit terrorist crimes. However, the group is first and foremost a political-military opposition group from Uganda. The ADF's violent methods do indeed make it a regional threat, but when it comes to the violence in eastern DRC, currently, the ADF is far from solely responsible.
Indeed, on the Ugandan side, the ADF had been defeated for years. And along the eastern DRC border, the ADF is not the only active armed group. The organization rarely claims any terrorist attacks, but has been blamed for all the violence over an area of 400 km² in recent months., the size of the territory of the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu.
A large amalgam fed directly by the KST and the Bridgeway fund, which led to the mobilization of two African armies. Indeed, after the state of emergency declared by Félix Tshisekedi in the DRC, which was in dire failure when it came to containing the violence, despite a multitude of declarations of military victories, other military entities were deployed in the region. .
American military instructors have been requested by Kinshasa. Then it was the turn of the South African mercenaries of the former head of Executive Outcomes, Eeben Barlow. Finally, for almost a month now, the Ugandan army has intervened in the DRC as well.
Who benefits from the war on terrorism in the DRC?
If the chaos in eastern DRC today, whose last demonstration resulted in a bomb attack in North Kivu, endures, we should not forget its origins and objectives.
Originally, even if we can only speculate about each other's interests, this war was only fueled by the KST report, and therefore the Bridgeway fund. And while it is still not certain that the ADF has any connection with ISIS, the group has been more or less diluted in the mass and relatively passive since its flight from Uganda.
Today, however, not only are the ADF killing civilians on all counts, but the latest wave of attacks in Kampala is also blamed on them. What makes you wonder how a terrorist group of a few hundred members, on the run following the destruction of its bases in Ituri at the start of the FARDC operation, can still do so much damage?
But, above all, what interest does the Bridgeway fund have in the terrorist threat in Africa? Bridgeway now operates $ 800 in US state funds intended to "promote defection" within the ADF and to fund "the training of military, traditional and religious leaders" to this end. But, above all, with the qualification of the ADF as an Islamist terrorist group by the US State Department, Bridgeway can raise much larger funds for its activities, particularly from the US Congress.
Since the Ugandan intervention in the DRC, the links between the "anti-terrorist" war in the DRC and its promotion by Bridgeway have been revealed. However, neither war, nor the communication that surrounds it, can no longer be slowed down. Only two questions remain: how will this war pave the way for the Americans to return to the DRC? And how will she benefit Bridgeway boss John Montgomery?