Exodus in Zaire

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GOMA, Zaire: Rwandan refugees and displaced Zairians began flocking toward home today as if the doors to their cells suddenly had been flung open, and across the world, diplomats were crossing their fingers. A Tutsi offensive had driven Hutu forces westward into Zaire, potentially forcing the Hutu militias to relinquish control of the bursting Mugunga refugee camp that has served as a barren purgatory to more than 1 million people, and as cover for thousands of militiamen hiding from their enemies. A significant exodus would greatly ease the need for the U.N. humanitarian and military intervention that has been hurriedly assembled over the past few days. Refugees said some Hutu troops had fired into the air to stop the refugees from leaving, but they were overwhelmed by a wave of people moving toward Goma and the Rwandan frontier beyond. "The Interahamwe are going. They wanted us to go with them," said one Rwandan. "Most of us want to go home." Reports, however, have differed; some arriving refugees said the Zairian rebels had entered the camp as the Hutu militias retreated, while others maintained that the militias were still in the camp this morning. And the militias are struggling to retain their leverage. "Some of the Rwandans were afraid and stayed with them," said Mojinya Makinode, 47, a Zairian who trudged into Goma pushing two of his nine children on the back of a bicycle. "They were controlling them." But for him, and the hordes of others streaming out of Mugunga, the relentless fighting, for once, means freedom.