Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has said he hopes around a million South Sudanese refugees will return home following the signing of a peace deal to end the civil war by the country's leaders.
Signed in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Sunday between President Salva Kiir’s government and opponents led by his ex-deputy Riek Machar, the ceasefire and power-sharing deal is the latest attempt to end nearly five years of conflict.
“We hope that with the UN support in regards to food and basic essentials, the refugees could return home by January and take advantage of the rains... to grow some food,” Mr Museveni was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office.
He was speaking during a meeting with Tanzanian President John Magufuli in Dar es Salaam.
Sunday’s agreement was mainly brokered by regional leaders including Mr Museveni, who attended the signing ceremony. He was in Tanzania to brief Mr Magufuli on it and discuss bilateral ties including proposed pipelines to transport gas and crude oil between the two nations.
About two million South Sudanese are internally displaced, while a similar number have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
Uganda hosts the largest number of South Sudanese refugees. Its welcoming attitude towards the refugees has been praised by the UN and other international organisations.
The government gives South Sudanese a plot of land to allow them to build a home and start a farm.
Most are settled in sprawling camps in its north and northwest, where friction with locals has sometimes developed over competition for food, fuel and other resources.
Mr Museveni, the statement added, told Mr Magufuli that South Sudan’s “continued conflict has affected trade and retarded development” in the region.
Before war broke out in 2013 South Sudan was a lucrative destination for Ugandan exports including construction materials, food and beverages.
Authorities in both countries are eager to see the latest pact hold — unlike the previous one in 2015 — and trigger a rebound of trade.