This article considers the 2005–12 Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme in South Sudan. Current DDR practice centres on ex-combatants’ reintegration through encouraging entrepreneurship and self-employment and thereby their willingness to take risks and responsibility. However, South Sudan’s DDR programme invisibilizes and obscures the ex-combatants’ endogenous capacity to adapt and generate an income. Based on in-depth interviews with participants of the DDR programme and key stakeholders, the article argues that DDR interventions seldom capture the labour market experience of demobilized combatants. The article concludes that self-employment is the solution to the process of reintegration, empowerment and ultimately a key to statebuilding.