Russ Feingold, the former senator and a leading progressive, is now taking on an entirely different role as the U.S. special envoy charged with helping to find a solution to one of the deadliest conflicts in modern times: the two-decades-long war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Shortly after returning from his first trip to the region as special envoy, Feingold sat down with “Politics Confidential” and had some harsh words for the Rwanda government’s apparent support of rebels – the mostly Tutsi M23 rebels blamed for most of the recent carnage in eastern Congo.
“We've seen a credible body of reporting that the Rwandan government has been supportive of the M23,” Feingold told “Politics Confidential.” “That has to stop.”
The Rwandan government, meanwhile, has publically denied that it supports the M23 rebels.
Feingold was quick to add that, in the conflict that includes more than 40 rebel groups, other governments are also guilty of supporting rebel groups. He said all parties must be held accountable.
“We also are concerned about any support given by any other government for the FDLR,” he said of the mostly Hutu group that was connected to the Rwandan genocide. “So it's not just one side. We are telling all sides that you must stop support for these armed groups.”
Feingold said that he, along with special envoys from the United Nations and European Union, are working with the presidents of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda “to do everything they can to stop the armed conflict.”
Feingold described a recent trip to the Great Lakes region of Africa along with fellow envoys.
“So you go to Kinshasa in Congo, you go to Kigali in Rwanda, you go to Kampala and you eat with President Museveni,” he said. “But we also go to where the fighting is. We spend a day with all the special envoys in Goma. Goma is right on the border of Rwanda and Lake Kivu, and that is the epicenter of this conflict.”
On the topic of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, whose militant group has forced thousands of children to become soldiers or sex slaves, among other war crimes, Feingold said a small contingent of U.S. troops continue to assist in the training of local forces in an effort to capture the LRA leader.
“What Joseph Kony did to the people of northern Uganda is one of the most unspeakable things that has ever occurred to anyone,” he said. “I think that we are continuing to try and find this guy and stop him.”
For more of the interview with Feingold, and to hear more about his recent trip to the region, check out this episode of “Politics Confidential.”
ABC’s Dana Hughes, Michael Conte, Freda Kahen-Kashi, Alexandra Dukakis, Tom D’Annibale, and Mary Quinn contributed to this episode.