Simon Peter Okoshi
You studied the MA Conflict, Development and Security, what is it that made you decide on this MA programme?
I was already a serving officer in the Uganda Police Force and I wanted to deepen my understanding of security issues (and the linkages between conflict, security and development) at an international level.
So what made you decide to study in the UK?
Uganda and Great Britain have a long history of bilateral relations dating back to the colonial days. Various Uganda Governments (since independence from Great Britain on 9th October 1962) have maintained these close bilateral ties with the UK for the mutual benefit of citizens of both countries. In this regard, the UK government has offered and continued to offer exciting scholarship opportunities (that are nonetheless very competitive) to Ugandan nationals to benefit from the world-class training offered by British universities. I was lucky to be one of the four (out of an estimated 800 applicants) to be considered for the British Chevening Scholarship in the 2005-2006 academic year.
Why did you choose to study at POLIS and at Leeds?
I chose to study at POLIS as the University of Leeds is one of the most popular British Universities in Uganda. Also my colleague from the Uganda Police Force - Mr. Johnson Wadada, was a recent graduate from POLIS, majoring in Development Studies and recommended POLIS to me.
How did the course match your expectations?
The course content was quite rich and I got academically stimulated to read books and newspaper articles on security and international affairs. I have developed a culture of buying security-related books as and when able (although I have very limited access to journals). The course-mates were very friendly, specially the British students, who were indeed much younger than me by several years.
What did you most enjoy about your course?
I enjoyed discussions on the US-led war against terror with Professor Christoph Bluth, especially on the official rationale for the invasion of Iraq, the prosecution of the war and the subsequent quagmire that resulted. Professor Alice Hills has been and will always remain a very good friend of mine.
What did you enjoy about living in Leeds?
The friendly people of Leeds and the relaxed atmosphere (compared to the cut-throat life in London, where I went to visit a few friends on a number of occasions).
How does studying in Leeds compare to studying in Uganda?
The facilities and study environment is conducive for academic pursuit, unlike in Uganda where few academic materials are available to too many students. Also the student intake is of manageable number that allows for consultations between students and lecturers. Getting a masters degree within a year in a UK university is the most beautiful part of it, as in Uganda it usually takes between 2-3 years - accompanied with prayers!
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to study here at POLIS?
I strongly recommend POLIS, given the experienced teaching staff, well-stocked libraries and outstanding alumni that the school has produced over the years. Good lecturers and the opportunity to explore your academic potential without any hindrances.
Would you recommend POLIS to your colleagues back in Uganda?
Yes, very much so.
Tell us about your favourite lecturer
Certainly Professor Alice Hills (and I would add Dr. Stuart McAnulla).
What have you been doing since you graduated?
I resumed my work in the Uganda Police Force as Deputy Commandant of the Marine Unit. When my boss got a UN job in Sri Lanka (and presently in Somalia) towards the end of 2006, I was elevated to the post of Commandant Police Marines, a position I have held from November 2006 to date.
I understand that you are a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Uganda, equivalent of a Colonel in the army. What does this role involve?
Yes, I was offered accelerated promotion from the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (equivalent to Captain in the army) to rank of SSP by H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda in July 2008 for exemplary service; devoid of corruption that is synonymous with many Police Forces worldwide. I also strongly believe my M.A degree contributed to the promotion. My Unit was further instrumental in maritime security coverage during CHOGM 2007, which has been rated as one of the best-organised CHOGM in recent times. The role involves overall command and control of the Marine Unit, which has a national coverage.
What is your usual day at work involve?
Maritime security operations (mid-level planning, coordination, command and control of both personnel and equipment) in the whole country. It is a fairly small Unit but of a specialised nature - directly answerable to the Inspector General of Police.
How do you think your course helped your progression in your chosen career?
The subjects that I studied were quite relevant to my career and gave me a broader understanding of security issues, especially the security-development nexus. I can now appreciate very well the global security trends (like the conflicts in Darfur, Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan). I also intend to become an active participant in managing conflicts at an international level in the near future.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reading security-related literature, listening to international media broadcasts on channels like CNN and BBC to get updates on current affairs; and reading daily local newspapers. Also relaxing to the tune of country and reggae music, especially by the legendary South African reggae star Lucky Dube, who sang about social injustices like apartheid and crime (himself ending up as victim of a brutal murder in Johannesburg).
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to work with the UN, especially at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). I was initially on the Uganda contingent of ten (10) Police Officers that left for Darfur in September 2008; but was told by my boss to first carry out national duty as I prepare someone to take over in future. I had already completed the pre-deployment training at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana in June 2008.