Civil service reform is an important element of governance reforms, but has received limited attention in the literature pertaining to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This article examines Congo's aborted CSR process from 2003 to 2008. Through a detailed exploration of some of the project's components (the design phase, the census, and the workings of the structures charged with implementation), analysed through a framework attentive to the tensions between democratisation and liberalisation, the political logics that have pervaded and affected implementation outcomes are reconstituted. These logics, it is argued, are deeply embedded in the context of democratic transition/post-2006 elections, which donors have played no small part in shaping. The ambiguity of donors towards CSR, bemoaning the absence of governmental commitment but all too prone to tolerate administrative neglect, suggests that it may have been irrelevant for the disbursement of aid, and ultimately accommodating for the Congolese authorities.