Kigali, Rwanda, June 27, 2016 - Names often have deep and unique meanings behind them, but for Rwanda's Seraphine Mukantambara, her name holds a unique story.
The Rwanda Revenue Authority and Rwanda international, is a genocide survivor, who has been a key figure in volleyball for both club and the country.
In December last year, Mukantambara, also well known as ‘Baby’ to her peers, joined Turkish second division league side Elazig IL Ozel for a three-month trial. She failed to earn a permanent contract, and decided to return home, but has remained a key figure for her national team.
But it is the 22-year-old Mukantambara's heart touching story about her childhood which sets her apart.
Born on the very day that the 1994 Genocide against the Tutis started, she never had a chance to see her father as he was killed during the massacre together with several of her family members.
Fortunately she survived together with her mother, and four siblings. To many, her name may pass like any other, but there is a unique story behind her Surname; Mukantambara.
Her grandfather was killed in the Genocide, but before his death, as the war raged on, he asked Mukantambara’s expectant mother that if she happened to survive, she should name the child Ntambara if it’s a boy or Mukantambara if she’s a girl, literally to mean “Born in times of war.”
“When I was in primary 5, I asked my mother why she named me Mukantambara because at times I felt uncomfortable with it, and when she told me the meaning behind it, I started loving it. I have maintained it as my name from that day,” she said.
While narrating her childhood, she disclosed that before she picked interest in volleyball, she had a passion for football, and her favourite position was goalkeeper.
She began playing volleyball in primary five, just for fun and was spotted by the then St. Aloys Rwamagana volleyball team coach, and was further encouraged by the school director, Gilbert Nzayisenga, who offered her a bursary to study at the school.
“By then I never knew I would play volleyball as a professional sport, however they (St. Aloys) nurtured me and the coach and director kept encouraging me to be confident, and as time passed by, I started to fall in love with the sport,” she recalls.
In 2010 while in senior one at St. Aloys, national team Rwanda coach Paul Bitok visited the school and conducted a training session with the school’s volleyball team, which Mukantambara was part of.
The Kenyan tactician, who has nurtured several volleyball stars, selected her as part of the team for a training camp that was to be held in Ruhango district in preparation for the regional FEASSA games that were to be held in Kenya.
“By then I had started feeling that I could actually make it if I put my mind on it, fortunately coach Bitok was always on hand to give us guidance and motivation, which really played a big part in my improving.”
She never managed to break into the team that went to Kenya for the FEASSA games, and it was after these games that Bitok handed her, a maiden call up to the U20 national team that competed at the African U20 Championships in Tunisia.
The following year, the Rwanda Volleyball Federation (FRVB) selected three rising talents from St. Aloys Rwamagana—these included; Delphine Uwicyeza, Olive Mutamba and Mukantambara.
The trio was brought to Kigali where the former two joined APR while Mukantambara was recruited by Rwanda Revenue Authority – the trio continued their studies at APACE.
Mukantambara says: “When I joined RRA, I found Dorcus Ndasaba, a Kenyan right attacker at the club and because she was an experienced player, I learned a lot from her and when she left the club to join APR in 2012, I became a regular player until today.”
In her five year spell at RRA, Mukantambara has won numerous titles within the league.
On a personal level, she has won six MVP awards in different competitions, including; Genocide memorial tournaments (2012, 2013), 2014 MVP and 2015 best attacker at KAVC tournament in Uganda, MVP Africa Youth Olympic Games (2014) and best attacker in the 2016 Genocide memorial tourney.
Mukantambara captained the girls’ youth team to finish third in the 2014 Africa Youth Olympic Games in Botswana, where she claimed the tournament’s MVP award.
She was part of the national women’s youth team that finished 4th at the African Championships in Cairo, Egypt in 2011 and also finished fourth with the junior team in Tunisia, the same year.
Again in 2014, she was part of the national youth team that finished top in the qualifiers for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Ghana, but failed to impress at the eventual Games in Nanjing, China where Rwanda finished in a disappointing 25th place.
In April this year, she was part of the RRA club that finished fourth at the 2016 Women's African Club Championship in Tunisia.