Editor's Note: This op-ed originally appeared on Politico. Robin Wright is an activist and an actor who stars on the Netflix series “House of Cards”. JD Stier is the Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign manager. The two recently traveled to Congo; they continue to advocate for peace there.
Secretary of State John Kerry sent a powerful signal Tuesday to the people of war-torn eastern Congo by appointing former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) as the new U.S. special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes region. Feingold’s appointment signals strong leadership from the Obama administration in supporting the peace process for Congo and the larger Great Lakes region. Grassroots women activists in Congo have been calling for President Obama to appoint a high-level envoy, because of his experience and knowledge of the region. Now, we can finally celebrate this stride toward peace in Congo.
Having recently traveled to eastern Congo, we leapt into action when, last November, the Congolese city of Goma fell to the M23 rebels. Activists began calling on the administration to appoint a special envoy to respond to Congo’s newest crisis and condemn the governments of Rwanda and Uganda for supporting M23.
We argued that, as U.S. special envoy, Feingold in particular could work closely with Mary Robinson — the new U.N. envoy to the region — by delivering strong political and diplomatic support from the U.S. government to bring the parties in conflict to the negotiating table. We also pointed out that, as U.S. special envoy, Feingold could help ensure that the peace process addresses the drivers of conflict and includes the involvement of Congolese women and other leaders in civil society.
The Enough Project’s Raise Hope for Congo campaign, together with World Pulse, supported a petition on Change.org from Congolese human rights activist Neema Namadamu that gained 108,000 signers. In January 2013, we hand-delivered the petition to the White House and again called for swift action in the appointment of a high-level envoy.
Photo: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is the new U.S. special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes region. (AP)