Serge Rwigamba has been the head guide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre since 2007. A graduate in international relations at ULK (Université Libre de Kigali). His interests lie in history, politics, diplomacy and sports.
The 35-year-old talked to Sunday Times’ Sharon Kantengwa why it fulfills him explaining to people who visit the Kigali Memorial Centre the tragic history of Rwanda.
Why did you pick interest in working here?
I was to some extent affected by this country’s history, because I’m a survivor. My father, brother and half of my family were buried here and so not only did I find working here as a fulfilling duty as a survivor but also it was the place where I found a job that would suit my interest at that time because my work is to satisfy the curiosity of people.
So have you met your expectations?
Not really. As you meet different people all over the world you get a vast knowledge in terms of what you can do. But I think that I am on a good track. Work is sometimes exhausting because you are talking about your experience, your history and you have to repeat death so many times in a day yet I am a direct victim of the genocide.
But also, it is sometimes a nice experience because you get to meet different people which allows you travel without moving.
You get to know what people think and as a genocide survivor, working here helped me a lot in terms of understanding the process that may lead to mechanisms of violence and genocide as a crime against humanity and how to prevent it. It also helped me to be less judgmental towards people’s attitudes and behavior and get to know that there is a cause to whatever happens whether good or bad.
What are some of the memorable experiences that you have encountered during your time of work?
The recent visit of Dr. Dlamani-Zuma which was her second time. She always finds this place touching and expresses her emotions every time she comes here. I also received the Minister for Gender from Congo Brazzaville and she had brought other officials from her country to understand how a small thing that had started as ideology can cause such tragedy.
Our wish is that all people learn from our past and although we have the educational aspects some people find it too hard to simply take on. I remember when Angelina Jolie came to the memorial center, she was in tears and did not give any comment because it was too hard for her to take in.
Also former French footballer Bazile Bolli couldn’t finish the tour after watching two graphic images in the museum. What saddened him was not only the killings but how his country got involved and he said that he felt unworthy to be called a Frenchman. I love being amidst different opinions and views of the different people around the world.
And how do you deal with emotional people that come here?
There are some cases that are beyond our capacity and we have a counselling team here that assist people with high trauma cases. But it sometimes goes beyond their capacity as well and some are taken to hospital sometimes especially Rwandans.
But this place is also a healing place because we receive trauma patients depending on their stage and are recommended here by doctors to face the reality. It’s also an important place for Rwandans in the diaspora because they are mostly the ones who cannot cope with the message. They sometimes go back completely depressed.
With your experience as a head guide, do you wish to see anything changed at this museum?
Absolutely. If we would get more means, I think that there are some chapters that we would love to add on. We tend to talk about tragedy and peace but what is lacking is the journey from where the country’s tragedy to peace. We need to tell how our peace came about in this country, how trust has been rebuilt and justice restored, so that we can encourage other people going through the same that they can overcome them as we did.