The fierce pride people have in Africa's most dramatic turnaround story in a generation. People speak of the genocide and the new peace with freedom, with satisfaction, with a look-at-us-now flourish.
But then there is the confusing reticence, suspiciously looking like fear, in discussing the democracy they have now. Taxi drivers aren't as keen to speak to the 14-year political dominance of the wiry figure who oversaw Rwanda's transformation. Paul Kagame is an ex-solider, one who has seen and shed blood. The people appear to know that in their very bones.
It is rare to find a Rwandan who will criticize their President (famous for press and opposition crackdowns) openly - to a tourist, at any rate.
Is it possible that this is only love? Is it possible that love can lead to silence? One is not sure.
All we have are the facts. That the country whose genocide claimed the lives of one million in 1994 has risen to have the highest percentage of women in parliament
, a GDP growing 8 percent on year
on average, between 2001 and 2014, ranking 11 on the 2015 Mo Ibrahim Index of Governance
, steep declines in poverty
and, since 2005, a drop in income inequality indexes
; on track to becoming a middle-income country by 2020. Yes, Rwanda is a modern miracle. Lazarus, come from the dead.
So, after two constitutional terms, it was enough for Kagame to take a victory lap. And many of us have been waiting for this living legend to gracefully office, and enter a space of global acclaim.
We, Africa's besotted young, hang on to every word when he speaks, we applaud like puppies at the World Economic Forum when he schools Africa's weakling leaders on how to lead, we host conferences and seminars in and out of his country that break down his vision into repeatable models. You can't blame us. This is an oasis in a continent desperately, desperately in need of inspiration.
He has shown Africa's leaders that it can be done.
So, how do we take the news that Kagame -- on 18 December won, overwhelmingly, a referendum ("I can only accept," he says with the unmistakable smugness of Africa's myriad sit-tight leaders) to lead the country for another term of seven years, in 2017, and then two five-year terms after?
How do we take the news of constitutional amendments effected to benefit one individual?
I look at my country, Nigeria.
I continue to insist that, despite allegations of personal corruption (yet unproven in any courts and which he denies), Olusegun Obasanjo was the best president we ever had, at least in my lifetime.
Under this president, anti-corruption agencies found bite, dead government institutions began to breathe, the extractive industries found transparency, customs restructured for efficiency, privatisation opened the field for global businesses to play ball, and our creative industries finally began to flourish.
Indeed, much of the foundation of our democracy, with its economic progress and social mobility came under Obasanjo. They remain so, despite the relentless assault of the clueless, because of the clarity and stubbornness with which he created institutions built to last.
One wonders what would have happened if he had succeeded at his own third term desires -- opposed vehemently, and with good reason, by the entirety of Nigeria, including myself.
I can wager a bet that Nigeria would have fared better than the twin curses of Umaru Yar'Adua who took a job he was too ill too perform, and Goodluck Jonathan, who took over a job he shouldn't have.
You look at Ghana, where, online, its citizens complain daily of a leadership that has lost its way. After its set of visionary leaders stepped down (and I must agree, if my two visits to that country last year count for anything). You look at South Africa, after Mandela, with Zuma and what he has done with the iconic ANC. You look at Libya, and how its today is worse than anything it ever saw under its dead dictator.
You wonder at the utility of term limits if they limit the capacity of visionary leaders.
Because, indeed, what use is democracy as a system of government -- what use is any system of government -- if it does not deliver development, growth, jobs, hope on the rise?
Germany, after all, has its chancellor serving a third term. Roosevelt lead the United States into a four term.
So, one wonders if Kagame will succeed this third time. And why it must be him.
One wonders why he can find no one else in his country who can continue what he started. One wonders if he can avoid Mugabe's trap and build a new model of sustainability where others have failed. Because, indeed, one cannot find any sit-tight African leader who has sustained whatever progress he (they are always men) rode to dictatorship with.
One wonders why our continent must always make decisions between democracy and development. Why can't we have easy choices?
And then one wishes to deliver a subtle warning to Kagame.
That this is not just about him, and it is not just about his country.
Rwanda gives so many of us reason to believe that it is possible - in our own countries, and for our continent. Kagame reminds us that change is possible, that governance can be noble, that politics, in its purest form, can yet be a force for good.
He cannot afford to be making a solely selfish decision.
Too many of us are counting on Rwanda. A pointless power-grab will sorely break our hearts.