Human rights defender
William is the founder of Friends of ZOKA (FoZ). FoZ promotes the protection, preservation, conservation and to sustainably manage Zoka Central Forest Reserve, the only natural tropical rain forest in Northern region of Uganda. FoZ succeeded in stopping the Ugandan Government from seizing and degazetting Zoka Central Forest Reserve for sugarcane plantation in 2016. In 2017, FoZ came to learn of a new threat to Zoka Central Forest Reserve: that illegal logging of high-value endangered Afrizelia Africana trees and other tree species taking place inside the Forest and other areas in West Nile and Northern Uganda. William and his colleagues engaged the government of Uganda until a ban was levied on the harvesting, trading and transportation of Afrizelia Africana in Uganda. FoZ helped to sensitize more local people about the illegal deforestation taking place, using tactics such as social media, WhatsApp and community dialogues. Under William’s guidance, FoZ strengthened various local networks of professionals, women and youth in the entire West Nile and Northern region and mounted collective pressure on various political and cultural leaders at the local and national levels against the illegal logging activities. In March 2019, William and other members of FoZ walked for 470 kms from Kampala to ZOKA Central Forest Reserve in an awareness move, and in May 2019, William was awarded the 2019 EU Human Rights Defenders Award.
Illegal logging in Uganda
Illegal logging is widespread in Uganda. A 2015 report by the ministry of Water and Environment said illegal logging, mostly for timber, involved local and national political leaders and some individuals in security agencies. Loggers use people on the ground, such as local councilors, to sidestep regulations. With his work, William has exposed the powerful individuals behind the illicit activities. Moreover, the work of human rights defenders is constantly being curtailed through the usage of the Public Order Management Act.
Threats and harassment
William has experienced various types of harassment including insults, surveillance, physical attacks, blackmailing, death threats and digital threats.