Why did the democratic experiment launched in the Republic of Congo in 1991 fail so dramatically in 1997? Why has it not been seriously resumed since then? In tackling these complex questions, John Clark provides a thorough analysis of more than fifteen years of Congolese politics.Clark explores a series of logical hypotheses regarding why democracy failed to take root in Congo, moving from political culture to economic performance, ethnoregional identities, French foreign policy, the role of militias, and institutional design. He also discusses the country s present electoral authoritarian regime. His conclusions shed light not only on the nature of Congolese politics, but also on the utility of the scientific approach to understanding the social world.