Aline Uwase was two days old when the Genocide against the Tutsi broke out in 1994. She survived the Genocide but lost some family members and relatives to the massacres.
25 years later, Uwase is an employee of the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi, since December 2016, working as a front desk officer and guide at the museum. As a guide, her work entails explaining to people who visit the museum, the tragic history of Rwanda.
As a young survivor, it is mixed feelings for Uwase, as she goes about her daily job to remember what happened and professionally explain to the visitors.
“Joining the memorial as someone who is just learning what happened, brought mixed feelings. I was happy as well as nervous. It’s a memorial so I didn’t know what to expect but when I got there, I met a supportive team that helped me integrate in the system. It’s a moving experience working at the memorial but you never get used to it as every day you learn something new,” she says.
Despite the hurdles of going through the horrific past on a daily basis, the 25 year old is motivated by the need to share stories, that she feels part of, with the rest of the world, but also change the narrative about the youth contributing to the development of the country.
“We have all kinds of people coming to the memorial but I feel proud to work there especially when people come to give us feedback which gives us the impression that we are doing something great not just for the memorial but the country as well because most of our visitors are foreigners.
The museum is still a sensitive place but it’s also part of my story because in as much as I did not experience the genocide, I lost my brother and so many relatives and seeing these images and documentaries reminds me that it doesn’t have to happen again, not just in Rwanda but everywhere else.
We also know that the youth were mostly involved in the genocide more than anyone else so I feel like it’s my responsibility to teach the youth especially, about what happened so that they know the truth and prove the genocide deniers wrong,” she says.
As a custodian of the stories and reminders, Uwase is honored to work at the memorial but how does she deal with the different emotions that people experience at the memorial?
“It’s my home but I also understand how difficult it is to be here. Before the visit, they have no knowledge about the Genocide, sometimes misinformed or confused. After the visit, they are just crying, tears of remorse of all this time they lived in ignorance. They thank us, they thank the memorial, and they thank Rwandans for being courageous and for keeping this memory alive for the next generations. Visitors are inspired.”
This for her is enough inspiration that she believes the memorial will continue to be her place of work for the years to come as part of her contribution to the nation’s rebuilding process.
“Reconciliation is a process, I believe. We can’t sit and think it has an end point. We are on an ongoing process but have made an unprecedented step country wide,” she says.