Sir Samuel Baker’s second entry in Acholi & the construction of Fort Patiko

Fort Patiko in Gulu district (Prime Safaris Image)

In this second installment of a series that explores succession in Patiko, retired civil servant Paul R Kilama (LLB London), citing from various resources in his research work, looks at Samuel Baker’s second entry in Acholi, war with the Banyoro, Arab slave dealers, and the construction Fort Patiko.

 On 6th March 1872 Baker again re-entered Acholiland for his second tour. Just like he did on his first visit in 1962, he lost no time and on 1st April, 1872, he set off for Bunyoro to meet the new Omukama of Bunyoro king Kabalega.

Unfortunately, Baker’s second visit to the kingdom met with even more resistance. On 8th June, 1872 King Kabalega fought battle with Baker and his group, causing Baker again to return to Acholiland hurriedly, just as he did on his first visit (in 1864) during King Komarasi’s reign.

With the benefit of hindsight, this resistance to Bakers’ advance southwards help halt the expansion of the Anglo-Egyptian rule and saved the entire Great Lakes region from falling in to the hands of Arabs. People of the new South Sudan republic remember only too well what it means to be ruled by Arabs.

On page 93 of his book Ismalia Baker had this to say about Shua (Acholi) people: The men of shooli (Acholi) and Fatiko (Patiko) are the best proportioned that I have seen; without the extreme heights of the Shillooks or Dinka, they are well-knit and generally their faces are handsome. On morality of Acholi people he wondered: “The curious fact remained, that without the slightest principle of worship, or even a natural religious instinct, these people should be free from many vices that disgrace a civilised community”, Baker of the Nile by Dorothy Middleton, pg.236.

On page 90 of Ismailia (op.cit) Vol.11, Baker describes their second triumphant return to Shua (Acholiland), from Bunyoro: My men look remarkably well, and the advance into Fatiko was a sight that was entirely new to central Africa. We were in magnificent order for work, with a hardy force of 212 men. His Askaris (soldiers) known in Runyoro as Abasursura and corrupted to ‘Panchura’ in Acholi language, were dressed in white and scarlet red colours.  This military march on Patiko did frighten the life out of Aboo Saood and his fellow Arab slave dealers, who during the eight years absence of Baker had wreaked so much havoc on the people when the station was left under the control of the Kutoria, i.e. the Egyptian administration.

Baker tried so much to rid the region of the marauding Arabs (Jadiya) and their lackeys, the Nubians. Unfortunately, it seems that Baker was not aware that the Kutoria Arabs representing the Khedive administration were just as brutal, lawless and blood thirsty as the Jadiya Arab slave dealers.

After the welcome ceremony Baker was thoroughly briefed about the atrocities being committed by Kutoria Arabs by Gimoro and Shuli (Acholi) aka Obwona-Awach who was the interpreter (ladum) of the Rwot of Patiko. Both men could speak Arabic.

On page 95 of Ismailia, Vol.11 Baker writes: The fact that my return would give confidence throughout the country; and the news had already been carried to the great Sheik Rot Jarma (Rwot Chamo) who had never visited Aboo Saood or his people, but would quickly tender his allegiance to me as the representative of the Khedive. Baker records the triumphant coming of Rwot Chamo, pg.126 of Ismailia Vol.2, as follows: Fatiko(Patiko) is merely a district of the great country of Shooli(Acholi) which is governed by the great Sheik, Rot Jarma (Rwot Chamo).

This person had sent words to me that he intended to visit me, to tender his allegiance to the government. On 16th March, 1872 a wild sound of many horns was the first introduction, and shortly after, a number of his people advanced chanting a peculiar low song and dancing a solemn slow step. The great Sheik came behind them, moving at a canter, as he rode his pony. He gently dismounted his pony and was quickly ushered in to my presence beneath a shady acacia, close to my tent door.

Baker’s second triumphant return to Patiko on 1st August 1872 is well described in Baker’s own book “Ismailia”, Vol.11, pages 90-95 as was already stated in the earlier paragraphs.

The following day Baker and his soldiers waged war on Aboo Saood, Omar Ahamed Abdel-Mek and his fellow slave dealers. According to “The Stolen Woman” by Pat Shipment, pg.312, “A delegation of about 270 men were approaching from Aboo Saood’s camp, flags flying, presumably to pay their respect. Aboo Saood’s men settled two large cases of ammunition under a convenient tree and stood in formation”.

In the fierce battle that followed, “Sam and his army of fewer than 150 men” routed Aboo Saood’s men and were able to capture the following items: 306 heads of cattle ;50 guns; 45 prisoners( many of whom later testified against Aboo Saood); 15 donkeys and horses; 130 slaves rescued; 7 flags

Aboo Saood fled the scene for Khartoum were he spread false report about the battle of Patiko, tarnishing the image of Sir Samuel Baker even to the Royal Geographical society in England. Later however the Daily Telegraph reported that “The latest and trustworthy intelligence was that Sir Samuel Baker and his party were all well at Fatiko (Patiko)”.

Immediately after the battle of Patiko Baker set himself to the task hewing the stones from Ajulu rock to build the fort that is still intact today at Patiko. “Three fireproof buildings- a powder magazine and two grain store rooms- were constructed upon the granite base and roofed over with a cement made from crushed termite hills, chopped straw, and water.

Inside the fort a natural rock shelter was walled to serve as a jail; others were regularly used by the Bakers as bedrooms, sitting rooms, and dining room. Fort Patiko was completed by Christmas day 1872”.

While her husband was busy at the construction site his wife fondly called by Acholi as Anyadwe (daughter of the moon), on account of her beauty, kept herself busy helping the women and children: “As always she welcomed native children and women, clothed them, taught them, fed them and treated them with tremendous kindness. Her reputation as a gentle helper and healer, established ten years ago before, revived rapidly, according to the “The Stolen Woman”, page 314. Strange as fate would have it, just like it happened ten years before, in December1862 at Obbo (now in South Sudan), when the Bakers spent their Christmas with Rwot Kaciba, Baker and Florence again find themselves spending their Christmas in Acholiland, this time (1872) at Patiko, in a safe fort he himself built.

Soon after that Sir Samuel and Mrs Florence Baker left Acholiland finally for England on 20th March 1873, travelling via Gondokoro, Khartoum and then Cairo and then to England.

To be continued