Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold is named as a U.S. envoy to a troubled region in central Africa.

Upon making the announcement Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sings the praises of his former Senate colleague, recalling that he and Wisconsin’s former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold served together in Congress for some 18 years.

“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 nation’s top diplomat says Feingold would help U.S. efforts in what Kerry called a “long-troubled region” in the Congo. Feingold headed the Senate Foreign Relations sub-committee on Africa when he served in the Senate from 1993 through 2010.

Jon Pevehouse, professor of political science and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says there’s been United Nations peace keepers in central Africa for nearly 15 years, the neighboring countries are tiring of the civil war.

“This is the other thing Feingold’s gonna be in charge of … is … in the past these neighboring countries have paid lip service to wanting peace, but they’ve actually been making money by running guns or by looting the diamonds,” he says. “There’s trying to be a concerted effort by the international community, particularly the United States, to try to say ‘look, the neighbors need to stop profiting off of this war. It’s in their interest to end it.'”

And, Pevehouse says, by sending Feingold to the Great Lakes region of Africa, the U.S. is sending a signal that we truly care about ending that conflict. Simply talking won’t solve the problem, but he says a combination of factors — military action, financial aid, and peace negotiations — could help the situation.

Kerry says there’s a need to help those involved in the conflicts find a path to a lasting peace, seek accountability for those committing human rights abuses, and break down barriers between humanitarian aid and civilians who need it.

Feingold, a Democrat, represented Wisconsin in Congress for 28 years before he was unseated by Republican Ron Johnson in 2010. Since then, he has written a book. He’s also been a visiting professor at Marquette, Lawrence of Appleton, and Stanford. Assuming he serves through the rest of the Obama administration, Feingold would not be available to run for governor in 2014.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:53

AUDIO: Feingold has a vast amount of experience, including his time as US Senator and his stint heading the Senate Foreign Relations sub-committee on Africa, but does negotiating really work in areas of civil war? Pevehouse says a combination of factors could help the situation. :49

Share the News