State Research Bureau (organisation)

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State Research Bureau
Agency overview
Formed1971
Preceding agency
  • General Service Unit
Dissolved1979
TypeSecret police, intelligence agency
HeadquartersNakasero, Kampala
Employees~3,000
Agency executive
  • Amin Ibrahim Onzi, Director

The State Research Bureau (SRB), initially the State Research Centre (SRC), was a Ugandan intelligence agency. Active from 1971 until 1979, it served as a secret police organisation for President Idi Amin's regime. The SRB retained numerous agents and maintained a wide network of informants.

Background[edit]

On 25 January 1971 Idi Amin, Commander of the Uganda Army, took power in Uganda following a coup which overthrew the government of President Milton Obote. His advisers suggested that he try to differentiate himself from Obote by disbanding the General Service Unit (GSU), Obote's intelligence agency, which was highly unpopular within the general populace.[1]

History[edit]

In February 1971 Amin dissolved the GSU and through a decree established the State Research Centre. Major Amin Ibrahim Onzi was appointed director, and technical assistance was sought from Israel in its formation. Its responsibilities were to gather military intelligence and conduct counterintelligence. The headquarters was located in a building on Nakasero hill in Kampala, next to the State Lodge Annex. In early 1972 Amin ejected Israeli technicians from Uganda and changed the name of the organisation to the State Research Bureau (SRB). Agents from the Soviet Union were brought in to replace them, and they subsequently instructed SRB personnel in the methods of the KGB. Many were sent to the Soviet Union for specialised training.[1] Others undertook military and police training in the United States and United Kingdom.[2]

...the headquarters of the State Research Bureau—like most of the things in Amin's Uganda, the name was a gross abuse of reality. There was neither research, nor were state matters dealt with, nor was it an office...thousands of Ugandans met their tortuous end in its subterranean cells.

—Journalist Godwin Matatu, 1979[3]

Male SRB agents commonly wore dark sunglasses, Kaunda suits, floral-print shirts, and bell-bottoms.[1][4] Researcher Andrew Rice described them as "flagrant and fairly incompetent".[4] Attractive Rwandan Tutsi women were recruited as undercover operatives and stationed at airports, banks, hotels, restaurants, government offices, hospitals, and locations near Uganda's borders.[1] Most personnel served for one year with the SRB before being reassigned to other government positions.[2] Empowered by a sweeping February 1971 decree which gave state agents wide latitude to act, the SRB tortured and executed many suspected dissidents, provoking international outrage.[1] For its role in state repression and killings, the SRB came to be derisively known among the Ugandan population as the "State Research Butchery".[5] One contemporary account argued that the SRB rarely collected actual intelligence, and its members instead used their powers to incriminate people whom they had grudges against.[4] In June 1974, in response to criticism of his regime and specifically accusations of numerous "disappearances" of persons in Uganda, Amin established a commission of inquiry to investigate abuses of state authority. The commission concluded that the SRB and another state security agency, the Public Safety Unit, were responsible for most of the disappearances.[6]

Despite its poor reputation, the SRB occasionally succeeded in uncovering plots aimed at deposing Amin. In 1977, it discovered that Ugandan exiles in Kenya were planning to invade Uganda. The SRB consequently forewarned the President, and the Uganda Army successfully repelled the invasion.[7] By 1979 the bureau employed about 3,000 men and women as agents, many of them Nubians. Most of them fled Kampala when the city fell to Tanzanian and Ugandan rebel forces in April 1979.[3] Shortly before they left, several agents tossed grenades into the holding cells of the SRB headquarters, killing about 100 detainees. The Tanzanians freed 13 survivors.[8]

Notable personnel[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Mugabe, Faustin (18 December 2017). "Terror under Amin's notorious State Research Bureau". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Francis 2012, p. 99.
  3. ^ a b Matatu 1979, p. 13.
  4. ^ a b c d Rice 2009, p. 194.
  5. ^ Mzirai 1980, p. 118.
  6. ^ Hayner 2010, p. 239.
  7. ^ Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 44.
  8. ^ Matatu 1979, pp. 12–13.
  9. ^ Honey, Martha; Ottaway, David B. (28 May 1979). "Foreigners Aided Amin". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 December 2019.

References[edit]