I hope you don’t mind me writing you a public letter like this. But it feels like the most appropriate way of saying what I want to say.
Because your decision to stop blogging has left me dejected. While I don’t always agree with what you say (I usually do), yours has been one of very few voices asking important but difficult questions. Those who find #UhuruWaKujieleza (freedom of speech) to be an annoyance (or, if we are charitable, an unaffordable luxury,) will be celebrating. We are all worse off as a result.
But before I get carried away, allow me a brief digression, which I hope will prove as illuminating as when you do the same.
In an earlier time of my life, I was a dedicated member of several choirs, usually singing tenor. I didn’t have a great voice, and certainly not a confident one, but surrounded by competent singers, I threw myself into it. And I believe I made a valuable contribution to the music of the choir. But without the other voices, with mine exposed, my confidence would instantly disappear, taking my voice with it.
On one occasion, between performances, I spoke to the singer next to me, a regular soloist whose voice I admired greatly. Did he prefer singing in the choir, or as a soloist, I asked. “No contest,” he replied, “singing solo terrifies me.”
Which brings me back to my main point. When there are multiple voices looking for truth, pointing out hypocrisy and asking tricky questions, each voice becomes part of something bigger. When there are fewer, those that remain become isolated, vulnerable, more likely to hold back from saying what needs to be said. When we retreat into safer spaces and private conversations, we may individually become safer but collectively we lose.
You may have noticed that I myself have been less active as a blogger over the past 12 months or so. You may have read my previous posts pointing out some of the risks of blogging in Tanzania. So you will know that I understand your decision.
And as you rightly point out, more than ten people have been charged with “cybercrime” in the past year in Tanzania, the new Media Services Act brings new difficulties, and the list of those charged with sedition grows by the day. For bloggers – including both you and I – who are not paid for our efforts, balancing the risk of a sedition case against the vague and uncertain benefits of blogging is a very understandable concern. So I can’t blame you for your decision.
So Chambi, is there any way that you could be persuaded to reconsider?