State Research Bureau (organisation)
|Type||Secret police, intelligence agency|
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.
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.
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. The organisation was directly responsible to Amin. 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. Others undertook military and police training in the United States and United Kingdom.
...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
Male SRB agents commonly wore dark sunglasses, Kaunda suits, floral-print shirts, and bell-bottoms. Researcher Andrew Rice described them as "flagrant and fairly incompetent". The SRB recruited a substantial number of Rwandan immigrants, and attractive Rwandan Tutsi women were used as undercover operatives as well as stationed at airports, banks, hotels, restaurants, government offices, hospitals, and locations near Uganda's borders. Most personnel served for one year with the SRB before being reassigned to other government positions. Agents drove late model vehicles with special tags. 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. Agents frequently abducted people by forcing them into the trunk of a car and driving off. For its role in state repression and killings, the SRB came to be derisively known among the Ugandan population as the "State Research Butchery". 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. 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.
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. Over time, the SRB further devolved; by late 1978, agents had formed criminal gangs which fought each other, and in one case SRB members robbed a bank in Kampala. The SRB also became less successful in eliminating suspected anti-Amin figures: Following the purge of Mustafa Adrisi in April 1978, SRB agents and Ugandan marines tried to massacre members of the Chui Battalion due to their suspected support for a pro-Adrisi coup, only to be gunned down by the soldiers. An attempt to arrest former minister Moses Ali around October of that year ended in the death of 10 agents following a shootout with his personal guards. 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. 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.
As a result of the Rwandan members of the SRB, Rwandans gained a reputation of being violent and ruthless in Uganda. After Amin's overthrow, this reputation was used to justify anti-Rwandan violence and suppression in the following years.
- Mugabe, Faustin (18 December 2017). "Terror under Amin's notorious State Research Bureau". Daily Monitor. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
- Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 8.
- Francis 2012, p. 99.
- Matatu 1979, p. 13.
- Rice 2009, p. 194.
- Waugh 2004, p. 20.
- Mzirai 1980, p. 118.
- Hayner 2010, p. 239.
- Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 44.
- Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 56.
- Avirgan & Honey 1983, p. 51.
- Matatu 1979, pp. 12–13.
- "Six stage escape from the dreaded State Research Bureau". Daily Monitor. 4 November 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
- Magembe, Muwonge (12 January 2016). "How Capt. Isabirye's head was cut off during anti-Amin coup". The Independent. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
- Honey, Martha; Ottaway, David B. (28 May 1979). "Foreigners Aided Amin". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
- Avirgan, Tony; Honey, Martha (1983). War in Uganda: The Legacy of Idi Amin. Dar es Salaam: Tanzania Publishing House. ISBN 978-9976-1-0056-3.
- Francis, D. (2012). Policing in Africa. Springer. ISBN 9781137010582.
- Hayner, Priscilla B. (2010). Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions (second ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9781135245580.
- Matatu, Gordon (May 1979). "The End of Uganda's Nightmare". Africa. No. 93. pp. 10–16.
- Mzirai, Baldwin (1980). Kuzama kwa Idi Amin (in Swahili). Dar es Salaam: Publicity International. OCLC 9084117.
- Rice, Andrew (2009). The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda. New York City: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0-8050-7965-4.
- Seftel, Adam, ed. (2010) [1st pub. 1994]. Uganda: The Bloodstained Pearl of Africa and Its Struggle for Peace. From the Pages of Drum. Kampala: Fountain Publishers. ISBN 978-9970-02-036-2.
- Waugh, Colin (2004). Paul Kagame And Rwanda: Power, Genocide and the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-1941-8.