The DR Congo embarked upon decentralization reforms in 2006 to improve governance and accountability, undermine predation, corruption, and personal rule, bring government closer to the people, and promote local development. As of 2014, despite some regional variations, Congolese decentralization had instead increased the degree to which the state extracts the resources and incomes of its citizens. It had also fostered provincial centralization at the expense of local governments, produced largely unaccountable provinces governing with little transparency, and unleashed self-serving provincial elites. After providing original empirical evidence for these claims, this article suggests that decentralization was thwarted by the failure of formal reforms to affect informal ruling institutions and by an erroneous diagnosis of Congo’s governance failures that singled out the abuse of elites without identifying the generalized nature of the instrumentalization of sovereignty by officeholders at all levels of the state. The article concludes by using Congo’s experience to illustrate important flaws in decentralization reforms in Africa.