According to a Politico article, a former Wisconsin senator ended a war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Russ Feingold, who lost his seat to Republican Ron Johnson in 2010, was appointed by John Kerry to help resolve a conflict involving the Congolese government and militia M23.
“Feingold’s assignment came just as a new group of rebels, trained and equipped by Rwanda, was gaining strength in the west and even threatening to take Kinshasa, the Congolese capital,” Politico reported.
The most important lesson behind the peace negotiations, Kerry told Feingold, is “that diplomacy works, and persistence pays off.”
Kerry became familiar with Feingold’s work ethic when they sat together for years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Russ and I served together in the Senate for some 18 years,” Kerry said during a United States Department of State press announcement in June 2013. “I have a lot of respect for a lot of qualities of Russ–his intellect, his courage, his passion–but with respect to this mission, chief among those qualities that are important right now is his expertise on Africa.”
The situation in the DRC has caused much concern for the international community lately. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country has an annual cost of $1.5 billion and employs 20,000 troops. Moreover, a study by the American Journal of Public Health revealed that around 48 women are raped every hour throughout the country.
Human Rights Watch also released a report condemning the war crimes committed by Rwandan officials and General Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of M23.
“Field research conducted by (HRW) in the region in May 2012 revealed that Rwandan army officials have provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo,” HRW said.
Although Feingold was able to defeat M23 with diplomacy, Politico argues that his next big challenge is to make governance in the DRC more effective.
“Only once it gained control over, and legitimacy in, eastern Congo could there be permanent peace,” said Politico. “Until then, it would remain a place where armed militias could gang-rape women and girls in farm fields, abduct boys and turn them into child soldiers, and burn entire villages to the ground.”
Due to its weak infrastructure and widespread poverty, the DRC still has a long way to go before getting rid of these problems. However, Feingold’s accomplishment in the region may potentially guide the country towards the right direction.
– Juan Campos