KITALE, Western Kenya, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- When John Njuguna left his Kiambu village in Central Kenya in 2006 and settled for a business in Rumbek, southern Sudan, his dreams were to fight poverty in his family.
But Njuguna arrived back to the country minus big pockets as his earlier expectations.
"I had a lot of hope to progress in my second hand shoes business and I was determined to alleviate poverty in our family. The business had just picked up but I feared of my life after the southerners went for the referendum, "Njuguna told Xinhua in Kitale where he has joined a relative.
Njuguna was among thousands of Kenyans who flocked to southern Sudan in search of jobs and for business to cash on relative peace due to the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army and the National Congress Party.
The deal ended 21 years of war pitting the largely Christian south Sudan and Muslim north.
The father of three ponders the feeling of many Kenyans expecting a successful referendum in the country to pave way for friendly investment environment.
Njuguna recalls good times when he would make prompt orders for wares from Kenya in 2008 and beginning of last year. "My wares were going like hot cakes and I hoped good things were coming in order to realize my dreams. But the controversial referendum sent us backing for safety here home," he says.
Seven Kenyans were reported to have been killed in the semi- autonomous southern Sudan last year under mysterious circumstances.
Francis Simiyu, a plumber with a Kenyan construction company based in Juba is also upbeat to urge for political stability and security to attract more investment. "Very many Kenyans who left southern Sudan are keenly watching and waiting for the outcome of the referendum due on Sunday, in which southerners are widely expected to choose independence," Simiyu said. "Political stability and security in the south are likely to attract more investors from Kenya and internationally and there will be more business, if all goes well. We are optimistic that the outcome would be positive," prayed Simiyu who plans to go back to the country to continue with his job and eke a living for his family in Bungoma town.
There has been souring relations between the north and south Sudan in the build-up to the referendum and analysts have warned that both armies have been re-arming, stoking fears of a return to war.
"A lot of pressure from the international community is likely to lead to stability rather than a return to war. Even the people themselves are really committed to peace," said Simiyu who arrived in Kenya a fortnight ago.
Many Kenyans and business firms see the best opportunities there for investors in agriculture, telecommunications, construction, education and health.
"The economic potentials in the south are yet to be tapped. The successful referendum would widen international investments," notes a Kenyan politician with investment in Rumbek but declined to be named.
Despite the south being economically fertile, the semi- autonomous region suffers from a lack of basic infrastructure such as roads and remains impassable during rainy seasons.
The East Africa nation has played a vital role to bring peace in southern Sudan. Enditem