It didn’t take long for my friends to notice that I was shaking my head in disbelief as I stood on one of the rocks at Fort Patiko. The air was a little fresh but accompanied by traumatizing thoughts of what the slaves endured on their way to the slave markets in Egypt.
Fort Patiko was a collection center for slaves. The strong and beautiful were forced to endure long journeys to Egypt through Sudan while the weak and the weary were killed off.
“The slaves were chained up, squeezed in tiny spaces and forced to sleep on bare rocks. Several of them lost their lives on these grounds,” the guide said.
Since time immemorial, the horrifying stories of the slave trade in East Africa especially in Zanzibar and Mombasa have been told but little was shared of the same horrors which were happening in Uganda.
Once the slaves made it past the gates of Fort Patiko, there was no return. Every chance of escape would be out of the window because the Arabs would tighten their grip on them.
“One thing you must do while at Fort Patiko is climb up one of the gigantic rocks,” the guide said as he pointed at them.
The breathtaking view felt like oxygen to my lungs and to think hundreds of years ago slaves lost their lives there is almost unthinkable.
Beneath the majestic rocks, the dark memories lingered echoing the painful grief but above ground felt like a rebirth and renewal of Fort Patiko which is now considered one of the tourist attractions of Gulu, northern Uganda.
Following a directive by Queen of England to end the slave trade, Sir Samuel Baker fought off the Arabs took control of the Fort between 1872-88 and it was later expanded by colonel Charles Gordon in 1879.
The guide took great honor in narrating the history but also found it fitting to add that no one is allowed to remove any pebbles from the structure because of its delicate state.