Authoritative books in English on the Congo are scarce, so this work by a leading Congolese academic is welcome. After reviewing the colonial period, the turbulent independence era, and Mobutu Sese Seko's long years of misrule, Nzongola-Ntalaja focuses on the emergence of opposition groups in the 1980s that led to prodemocracy momentum in the 1990s. Under pressure to curb kleptocratic excesses, Mobutu permitted in 1991 the brief installation of his chief rival, Etienne Tshisekedi, as prime minister, and he allowed the convening of a Sovereign National Conference (CNS) to discuss the country's future. Within a year, however, the CNS folded, and Mobutu aborted an election that would have put Tshisekedi firmly in control. When Kinshasa fell to foreign-backed rebels in 1997, hopes for a better political future rose, only to be dashed again. The Congolese people yearn for accountable government, says the author, who was a prominent participant in the CNS, but they lack the material and organizational resources to prevail against venal leaders and rapacious foreign governments to whom Congo is still one of the most tempting slices of the "African cake."