Secretary of State John Kerry officially announced on Tuesday that he has appointed former Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) as the U.S. Special Representative for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Among the many challenging issues in Mr. Feingold’s new portfolio are the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa and the M23 rebellion in DRC.
For our Invisible Children community, Mr. Feingold’s appointment is encouraging news, as he has an impressive track record when it comes to addressing the LRA crisis. In 2009, while serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, former Senator Feingold authored and introduced the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act a bill that required the president to develop the first-ever comprehensive U.S. comprehensive strategy to address LRA violence.
Thanks to champions in Washington like Senator Feingold, and thanks to the dedicated advocacy of thousands of young activists across the U.S., the LRA bill unanimously passed through Congress in May 2010 with historic bipartisan support. The legislation laid the groundwork for all the ways that the U.S. is currently invested in addressing LRA violence — from millions of dollars in funding for civilian protection and humanitarian assistance programs, to the deployment of 100 US military advisors to assist regional governments with dismantling the LRA and apprehending top commanders.
As Special Representative Feingold takes up this new position, we are hopeful that he will seek to finish what he helped start while in Congress. We urge Mr. Feingold to help make sure the Obama Administration stays committed to ending LRA violence, and we also encourage Mr. Feingold to engage regional governments to help ensure that they, too, stay committed to protecting civilians, supporting affected communities, and bringing top LRA leaders to justice.
On Wednesday, the Enough Project released a joint letter on behalf of more than a dozen advocacy organizations, including Invisible Children. The letter makes recommendations for what Feingold should prioritize in order to effectively and responsibly address the peace and security situation in Democratic Republic of Congo . You can read more about the letter here.
(Photo credit: Douglas Graham/Getty Images)