Visiting Fort Patiko: The Dreaded Slave Trade Site

Fort Patiko is a mysterious site to many yet its only 40 km out of Gulu town.

The site is one of the only remaining slave trade sites of the 19th century in the Northern region.

Last week a team from the Uganda Tourism Board and the Back to the Source Tours led by Koshie Mills visited the site in Aswa, Gulu district.

Honestly, I was clueless about the site but the history it bears is so rich and tragic at the same time.

Koshie Mills seated on the rock

The grounds were very green from corner to corner and peaceful but with a traumatizing past.

Here we met Ronald Okello our guide and one of the caretakers of the site.

He began by interesting us to take a walk around the site which we all gladly accepted.

“This is what we refer to as the gate of no return; when slaves passed through this gate they were never seen again,” he said.


The entry point was built by Arab traders using rocks and cement; and they still stand strong to this date.

As we climbed up the rocks our guide showed us dugout caves that used to house slaves.

Here they were chained in tinny spaces, one wonders how they survived under so much torture.

Our Guide Okello narrating to us the Fort Patiko story

“The Slaves would be gotten from all over and assembled here. The strong, healthy, muscular, handsome and beautiful ones would be separated from the sick, weak, ugly and skinny”.

The strong ones would begin their journey for Sudan slave markets then Egypt were they were sold off like common goods.

The remaining weak ones were thrown off a cliff to ensure that no slave returns to the village.

The corpses of the deceased were never given a decent burial they were left to rot.

“The journey to the slave market was too long and not easy. The slaves were forced to carry millet, simsim, ivory, and many other things. when they showed signs of being tired they were flogged to stand upright and keep walking”.

Sir Samuel Baker

Famously known for discovering the Nile, Sir Samuel was the one who came out to stop slavery under the Directive of the Queen of England.

With him were Nubian fighters who helped chase away the Arabs from the fort around the 1870’s and took it on as a station base for his campaign.

Entry point of Fort Patiko

When Sir Baker left the site was used by Sir Emin Pasha and Charles Gordon as they served Uganda under the British colony.

The government of Uganda gazetted the place as a tourism site as a natural historical monument in 1972.

The citizens of Uganda pay an amicable fee of 5000 UGX to learn about the history of the site.

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