FORT PATIKO / BAKER’S FORT
Fort Patiko is one of the remaining old structures portraying the British colonial era and slavery in Uganda and east Africa, this historical fort is located in northern Uganda in Ajulu parish, Patiko sub-county, Aswa County in Gulu district. The fort is situated 30 kilometers from Gulu town and 1.8 kilometers from Ocecu hill which is famously known as Got Ajulu, the famous julu word is an Acholi word meaning raises Got means a rock, hill or mountain. Fort Patiko is enclosed by a 16 feet wide and 15 feet deep trench which was dug purposely to prevent the slaves from escaping, the fort is neighbored by 6 hills that is Ajulu, Ladwong, Akara, Abaka and Labworomor in the north and Kiju hill in the south. Currently the fort is in ruins state an open to the public for research and education purposes.
Fort Patiko covering a vast land of approximately 9.4 hectares renders its establishment to the exploration of the great river Nile which attracted many foreigners such as colonial masters, missionaries, explorers and many more to Uganda who came with differing interests.
Fort Patiko is an extraordinary historical site built using stones, it was named fort baker after Sir Samuel baker who was sent to east Africa by the queen of England together with the missionaries to stop slave trade which was carried in the area. Fort Patiko was built by Samuel baker an English explorer as a military fort, Sir Samuel baker mostly remembered as the first European to visit Lake Albert and explorer of river Nile was the governor general of present south Sudan and northern Uganda on behalf of the British administrators. In his attempt to stop slave which included fighting with Arab traders, sir Samuel baker commissioned the building of the fort to be used as a military base and the fort was completed on December 25, 1872.
Fort Patiko was initially built by the Arabs as a centre for collecting slaves and a slave market who were sold to Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and many other nations, the Arabs gad built huts in Ocecu hill (present Gulu) to act as stores for their merchandise and the slaves. The centre was very convenient for Arabs as trading centre, unfortunately the Arabs lost control over the centre in 1864 upon the arrival of Sir Samuel baker and his wife Florence baker. In their search for treasures and upon their mission, these two encountered Patiko as mentioned to the by john spike, sir Samuel baker took over control of the centre and built a fort to replace it using stones for military purposes.
The fort consisted of divisions that is
- Industrial area
- Court yard
- prosecution Chamber at times referred to as a firing squad/beheading centre
- concrete stores
- Administrative Chamber which were important to Arab traders during the slavery era.
- A touring chamber which was used in the execution of unlucky slaves who were not bought by firing squad.
- Fort floppy compound which was used by the Arabs to assemble and select beautiful, health, muscular slaves from skinny, sick, weak and ugly ones.
- Caves which were dug horizontally inwards, these caves are 3ft meaning the slaves used to get in crawling on their bellies.
- A 2 kilometer pit surrounding the port, this 16feet depth and 16width pit was used as an escape route by the slaves as they run away from mistreatment and beatings which resulted into their death.
When Sir Samuel baker left Uganda a then British protectorate, the fort was used as a seat the British governors Emin pasha and Charles Gordon of Equatorial Province of the British Uganda Protectorate. Fort Patiko is one of the few places in Uganda and East Africa where you get to relive and learn more about the slavery era, the fort open to tourists and there is professional guides to guide you through the tour of the fort. Fort Patiko is a prominent attraction in Gulu district as it was visited by an envoy from the United Nations program and the minister of tourism, this boosted and made the fort to be more recognized by the world.
Fort Patiko is a fascinating beauty which rose above its terrifying dark past, when you visit this fort you will get to relive the slavery era, feel the ambiance felt by the early explorers when they first visited the place and more importantly you will appreciate and encounter the scenic panoramic views on the nearby village and nature. At fort Patiko you will encounter and see
- A plaque in the center of the fort on the remaining wall of a grain storage building reads “Patiko 1872 -88, founded by Sir Samuel Baker, occupied by Emin and Gordon
- 3 roofless doubled roomed houses which were built with rocks and cements but their rooms are not cemented, these houses were built on rocks and the Arab architects felt no need for using cement. These 3 roofless rooms were grass thatched offering fresh air to the Arab occupants.
- A grass filled pit which was used by the slaves as they were escaping, a walk in this pit will get bitten by mosquitoes and leave your clothes pitched by blackjack. A walk in this pit is regarded as a walk of oppression as it gives a tourist an insight about the oppression which was subjected to the tourists and the suffering they went through as they escaped through the pit. The pit is also referred to as Oyoro’s passage named after a slave who managed to escape by jumping over a deep communication trace.
- Antiquities such as grinding stones which were used by slave women to grind millet
- A mark of rosary in the compound left by Sir Samuel baker’s wife, Florence baker used to pray in the compound every morning.
- Around the compound of the fort you will see axe slices these axes which were were used to behead the slaves during the execution.
The fort is dotted with various beautiful sceneries which are perfect for photograph such rocks which were curved by the slaves into different creatures such as sharks, map of Africa, Lake Victoria and human heads who were executed.
Fort Patiko is filled with many terrifying stories about the dark days of slavery which will surely leave you in tears. As slaves were put on market to be sold, the remaining one majorly the weak one were executed, on the day of execution trumpets were blown to cheer up the executors after killing the slaves. Bodies of the slaves were never given a proper burial as they were dumped into the surrounding pit and vultures fed on them, the death of the slaves is witnessed by dark spots on the rots which are believed to be blood stains from slaves as they were beheaded.
The strong lucky men were forcefully made to dig more caves out of rocks to accommodate slaves. And the women were forced to grind tones of millet till their hands were left bleeding, the dug caves were not enough to accommodate hundreds of slave who were in captive. While in captivity and along the way to the market centre the slaves were not set off before the Arabs who were resting reason being they were scared that he slaves would mobilize themselves into a community and revenge on the Arabs.
Another story has it that when you visit the fort there is sounds of wailing ghosts which are heard pleading for their lives to spared though slave trade happened centuries ago.
Visit fort Patiko in Guru District and experience the slavery era.