Born in Musanze district, northern Rwanda, Hategekimana is the first born in a family of five. He studied up to Primary Six before dropping out.
The 57-year-old joined the Chinese firm in 1982 as a casual labourer who had learned carpentry and construction, and has worked on almost all its major projects in Rwanda ever since.
His job involves heading usually 50 to 60 labourers for construction projects.
When the 1994 Rwandan genocide broke out, Hategekimana was at the company’s offices in Kibuye, western Rwanda.
“The genocide happened three months after I had visited home. Information was patchy; I took the next about six months without knowing the fate of my family because of the nature of the situation,” he told Xinhua.
In Kibuye, Hategekimana helped safeguard his employer’s equipment, including lorries, mortar graders and excavators.
“We would see people turning up wanting to loot the property, but together with other guards, we successfully protected property, it was very hard,” he recalled.
When the Chinese returned after the genocide that killed more than 500,000 in about 100 days, they first took the staff who had kept watch on the company’s property to their homes to find out the fate of their family members.
Today a father of eight, Hategekimana is a resident in Ndera, some 15 km from the capital Kigali. Two of his children have completed university education while others are in secondary school.
He himself didn’t have much education, but is proud of bringing his children up to university level.
He says he loves his job and that one would have a good career “as long as you are a dedicated worker”.
He describes his Chinese colleagues as very friendly and easy to get along with.
The Chinese try to learn the local language Kinyarwanda while they teach local works some basic Chinese used in daily work, Hategekimana said.
Fellow workers at the company say Hategekimana has used his experience to guide entrants.
One colleague Joseph Sibomana said: “I have seen Vincent involved in all leading projects. I appreciate the fact that he helps guide us.”
Li Jianbo, the director general of China Road and Bridge Corporation Rwanda, calls Hategekimana a “committed worker”.
“Hategekimana thinks about how to accomplish a given task without waiting for instructions. He puts in a lot of hard work; he protected company equipment (during the genocide). We are proud to have him as our employee,” Li told Xinhua in Kigali.
Li said the China Road and Bridge Corporation was proud to be “the first foreign company to return to Rwanda after the genocide” to contribute to the country’s reconstruction.
“Our mission here is not about business alone but to contribute to helping people and government to grow together and develop the economy,” Li said.