Why is it that ruling parties with origins as rebel movements fighting against perceived injustices and exclusion often abandon the ideas and visions of state transformation that they had articulated when they were fighting? Using the case of the Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie–Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD) in Burundi, this article shows that rather than experiencing an abrupt ideological change when the CNDD-FDD became a ruling party, there had always been ideological divergence within the movement. Over time, progressive ideas of inclusive state transformation were repeatedly sidelined in favour of a focus on resistance, and then state capture. Paradoxically, then, once it became a ruling party the CNDD-FDD reverted to governance practices that were akin to those that had led it to take up arms in the first place. This is not because of an absence of commitment to progressive ideas among some CNDD-FDD members, but because the internal dynamics of the CNDD-FDD meant that those factions relying on power politics eventually gained the upper hand over those that articulated a more progressive, inclusive vision, due in part to their ability to back their ideas with force.