Founded by early explorers, is a spectacular Fort Patiko in Northern Uganda that offers tourists with yet another incredible opportunity to explore not just the structural out like of the fort but also its historical background. Cultural safaris in Uganda are more than just music, music, handcrafts but also exploring exceptional historical sites!! Fort Patiko is beauty; it comes with stunning mountains and hills with rare vegetation cover in its surrounding area. It was during the 1800's that Arabs had stormed into East Africa in search of trading opportunities whereby they went passed Ocecu (Gulu). The Arabs at that time wouldn’t have had any better slave harbor and trade connections. They had to descend to Ocecu hills and established 3 square shaped huts to serve for ammunition, ivory and foodstuff and hides and skins. Slaves were prime resources during Arab transaction and several were caught from Northern Uganda, Gondokoro in Sudan and many other places. Ocecu Mountain turned to be a sorting site for slaves. Healthy looking ones were forced to walk from Patiko via Sudan passed the Red Sea and transacted in Egypt. The trip to the slave’s main markets also wasn’t a joke! They carried the looted millet, sim sim, ammunition and ivory. Besides, they were also subjected to beatings and firing squad/beheaded especially those who became weak.
Baker and Birth of Fort Patiko
Fort Patiko also popular as Baker Fort is located 25 kilometers North of Gulu, 1.8 kilometers from Ocecu hill which is referred as “Got Ajulu where “Julu” in Acholi denotes raise and Got means Rock or hill or mountain. “Let’s nurture (Julu) our people so that our clan isn’t wiped away.” Due to this, the mountain has long been known “Got Ajulu.” As Britain kept expanding its colonial interests across Africa, promoting slave trade was one of their primary missions. So Sir Samuel Baker was delegated by the Queen of England to overlook the same mission. Although Britain could colonize Uganda in 1894, by 1863, Baker and chief of Patiko “Rwot Kikwiyakare” met and discussed the slave trade danger in the place. Sir Samuel Baker and his wife frequently visited Patiko. In 1864, they were explorers looking for geographical prizes of which Speke had mentioned but never featured on the world map. Went to South from Gondokoro on the Nile Sudan, they crossed Patiko, before locating Lake Albert and the Murchison falls and returning using the same route. At the time Patiko was the southernmost outpost of varied enclaves from which Egypt’s Turkish rulers and their mercenaries plundered slaves, cattle and ivory. In 1872, Baker came back from Egypt with Nubian soldiers, crossed through Bunyoro to quash the Kabalega resistance against the British and headed to Patiko. He took over the slave harbor, expelled at least 250 Arabs and after fortified the area that today it is famous as Baker’s Fort Patiko. It is surrounded by 6 mountains of Ajulu, Ladwong, Abaka, Akara and Labworomor to the north and Kiju in the south.
The Fort is an ideal tourism site but unfortunately it is still underdeveloped. Baker had established his fort in the area previously used by Egypt slave traders. The fort centre on the huge Koppie comprises of numerous separate rock-out crops and a number of large boulders. 3 mortared stone establishments still stand on the central plateau. None of these were Baker’s residence but stores for grains. Mud houses stood below the Koppie in place of leveled ground. These establishments have long gone but encircling defensive ditch remains, 100m in diameter, in plan curved into opposite ends of the Koppie like the ring on a bull’s nose. This ditch was reinforced with a wooden palisade with access via a small thriving gate house with narrow doorway and riffle ports. There are also some fissures between the rocks, holding cells in which men and women were separately confined prior to sorting on nearby rock plateau, the passage between 2 boulders in which rejected wretches we led to be speared to death and tossed off the Koppie for the hyenas.
Fort Patiko is constructed with stones and had headquarters for the officers, soldiers and the stones for food and ammunitions straddle on top of a hill in Gulu. Initially built by the slave trade, it is a place where slaves and ivory gathered throughout East Africa were kept and at times sold by the Arab slave traders. Baker and his successors, Gordon and Emin Pasha settled in the area between 1872 and 1888 and effectively used it in their campaign to stamp out the trade in humans that frequent into the place. When Baker arrived in the place on 6th March 1872, he found that the slave hunter called Abu Saud had founded his headquarters. This was Baker’s second visit to Patiko since 1864 when he came with his wife Florence as a private explorer on his way to Bunyoro where he became the first European to view Albert Nyanza. Bakers arrived with 212 soldiers, 400 porters, 1078 and 194 sheep. He was accompanied using his wife and nephew Lieutenant Julius Baker of the royal navy. He returned from Bunyoro where he was not successful as he was rejected by Omukama Kabalega and found when the fort had been attacked by Abu Saud’s officers but Bakers officers. Baker’s army also tried to fight back. On 28th August his men started to dig a defensive that was 8 feet deep and wide and in front were the sharpened wooden stakes. The ammunition store on the rock roofed with earth from the anthills to make the fire proof and composed of an internal and outer room for the guards. The stores established for millet and sesame were perhaps grass thatched but there is no record of the materials used for the establishments.
The site that is enclosed by Baker’s defensive ditch is the same as the area now enclosed because after some time around 1874 under gen Gordon, the ditch was expanded to the north more doubling the defended area. It is still possible to sight the line of the ancient landmark that is the original northern limit of Baker’s defenses. The encircled area must have been fully occupied with his several hundred soldiers and porters and the numerous grindstones scattered around the encircled place and Ocecu hill remind one that there must have been several women there as well to grind the corn and help in cooking.
Sights to observe
Fort Patiko stunning surrounding comes from its dotted small, scattered, cropping rocks, sit 3 square shaped and roofless huts that Arabs used at a time to store their loot. A safari to this historical site will reward you with amazing experiences. The Bakers themselves are assumed to have stayed in 2 houses at the bottom of the rocks along the southern part of the enclosure were huts for unmarried soldiers and the married quarters were on the west near the Baker’s private quarters. It is asserted that none of the rooms at the fort was Baker’s room as said. The officers’ liens were along the east part and via the center of the camp was a route heading from recent entrance to the north gate. The varied pits and mounds spread around the place perhaps the remains of the huts and the pit latrines. Currently, inside the fort there are 2 rooms of almost 10 square meters each. One of the walls has “Fatiko 1872-88” established by Sir Samuel Baker, occupied by Gordon and Emin.” It is believed that Baker miss spelt Patiko and ended writing as “Fatiko” instead of Patiko.
West of the fort, there an open, flat rock where screening of the slaves was conducted. The healthy and docile could be retained whereas the sick and the stubborn would be killed on spot 200m southwest of the fort’s compound. At this point, the slaves were either led or had to face the firing squad depending on the kind of the crime. Dark spots that are assumed to be the blood stains can still be sighted on the rocks and marks made by axes as the slaves were beheaded. South of the fort there are 2 huge caves that acted as prison cells.
In conclusion, Fort Patiko is an incredible historical site that offers opportunity to visitors to explore what transpired at a time when explorers, missionaries and slave traders frequented into Uganda and East Africa at large especially for slave trade. The area is still underdeveloped but the place is visited by visitors. It also harbors amazing vegetation in its surrounding. Developing it into a better tourist destination will increase safari holidays in Uganda.