Mantle-derived peridotitic garnet xenocrysts from kimberlites in the Mbuji Mayi and Kundelungu areas and from heavy-mineral concentrates collected in the Luebo area, D.R. Congo, have been analysed for major- and trace-element compositions in order to understand the structure and composition of the subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) and the diamond potential of the kimberlites. The lithosphere beneath the Kundelungu Plateau is ca 175 km thick and has been affected by pronounced melt metasomatism. Garnets from the Kundelungu Plateau indicate an initially cool geotherm (~ 35 mW/m2), which was disturbed by asthenospheric melts that penetrated the SCLM shortly before kimberlite intrusion ca 32 Ma ago. Harzburgitic garnets are very rare, but some lherzolitic garnets display compositions similar to garnets included in diamond. Garnets from the Mbuji Mayi region indicate a cool geotherm (35 mW/m2); the SCLM is ~ 210 km thick and was affected by melt-related and phlogopite-related metasomatisms. Harzburgitic garnets form about 33% of the analysed population. The garnets from the Luebo region indicate a cool lithospheric geotherm (35 mW/m2) typical of cratonic areas. The SCLM from which the garnets were derived was relatively thick (205 km), affected by melt-related and phlogopite-related metasomatisms and characterised by the presence of a ~ 80-km thick harzburgite-rich layer. In terms of peridotitic diamond potential, Mbuji Mayi and Luebo are more prospective than Kundelungu. The initially cool conductive geotherm, the presence of some garnets with compositions similar to garnets included in diamond and the presence of sporadic diamond in the Kundelungu Plateau suggest that diamond initially was present in the lithosphere and the observed paucity of diamond may be due to the melt-related metasomatism that affected the lithosphere in the region. We suggest that the lithospheric mantle beneath Kundelungu is a strongly modified Archean cratonic lithosphere that has survived beneath the area during Proterozoic tectonism.