Uganda was one of eight foreign countries designated for voting in last month's historic Southern Sudan referendum on self-determination. Nearly 99 per cent of the 58,203 ballots cast by Southern Sudanese living overseas backed the region's secession from the rest of the country, and the 12,330 voters who trekked to polling centres in Uganda overwhelmingly embraced the separation option.
One of them is Mama Mariam Taba, a native of Eastern Equatoria State who fled to Uganda in 1993 to escape the carnage of Sudan's second civil war. The conflict's estimated death toll of two million people included her husband and some of her children, but she is ready to go back to Southern Sudan later this year.
"As soon as the (referendum) results are announced and we are independent, I will march straight home," said Ms. Taba, now in her early seventies. "I will rebuild our land, the dream land of my ancestors that has been denied to us for a long time."
Life as a refugee in a foreign land hasn't been easy for Ms. Taba. The widow initially settled in the Ugandan town of Kiryadongo with her seven surviving children and eked out a livelihood raising cassava, maize and ground nuts. To supplement her meager farming income, she sewed tablecloths and bed sheets that were sold in the markets of the Ugandan capital of Kampala.
Ms. Taba moved with her family to Kampala in 1995 and entered the informal sector of Uganda's economy as a street vendor of vegetables and ground nuts. She managed to put some of her older children through university. Two of her kids are still in high school and the youngest is attending primary school.
On the first day of polling on 9 January, Ms. Taba went to the Kampala Two Referendum Polling Centre to mark her ballot in favor of separation.
"Thanks to those who brought the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," she said afterwards. "Thanks especially to our late leader and hero, Dr. (John) Garang, for giving us the opportunity of determining our fate in Sudan."
Other voters echoed her resolve to head home after the referendum process is completed.
Daniel Deng Mac left the Jonglei State capital of Bor in 1991 and joined thousands of other Southern Sudanese refugees at the Kakuma camp in Kenya.
He completed his primary and secondary schooling in Kenya and then moved to Uganda in 1998 to pursue a diploma in law. The aspiring attorney voted for separation at the Kampala One Referendum Polling Centre last month.
"If secession occurs, I will run to Southern Sudan immediately and continue my education there as things are difficult here," said Mr. Mac, who hopes to obtain his bachelor's degree in legal studies in the near future.
Some of the voters living in Kampala could scarcely entertain the thought that any fellow southerner might support continued unity of Southern Sudan with the rest of the country -- even though nearly four per cent of the tabulated ballots in Uganda actually endorsed that choice.
"It is not possible to get people voting for unity in (the) Kampala Two (polling centre)," said Sarah David, a former resident of the Adjumani refugee camp in Uganda. "Those who have never seen hell fire are the ones voting for unity, otherwise all are for separation here."
Others chose to dwell on the optimistic future they see for what will become the world's newest country when independence is proclaimed, as expected, in early July.
"We do not want more wars, we need development so that our lives can be transformed," said Erina Aba, a former resident of Yei County in Central Equatoria State who fled to Uganda nearly 20 years ago. "We have suffered enough. We need peace between the north and the south because separation does not mean breaking the brotherly relationship between north and south Sudan."