Former Senator Russell Feingold has been named the U.S. special envoy to Africa's troubled Great Lakes region.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who announced the appointment Tuesday, said Feingold will work closely with U.N. envoy Mary Robinson to advance a U.N. framework for peace in the region.
The eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has endured years of conflict and humanitarian crisis involving militia and rebel groups, some from neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Kerry said that stabilizing the region and disbanding the preeminent rebel group M23 are high priorities for the Obama administration.
"We are convinced that we have to help the parties find a path to a lasting peace, to a permanent cessation of hostilities, and to the disarmament and demobilization of M23," he said.
The DRC government has accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23, which took over the city of Goma briefly last year. Rwanda and Uganda deny the accusation.
Kerry said Feingold - who is 60 years old and served three terms as a senator from the state of Wisconsin - was known as the Senate's leading advocate and expert on Africa.
The appointment was quickly applauded by activist group The Enough Project, which works to end crimes against humanity in Africa.
The group said Feingold must work to ensure the peace process between Congo and its neighbors addresses security, economic and refugee issues.