By Maina Kiarie
Siyu Fort is in Siyu town situated on the north coast of Pate Island and is one of the Swahili settlements in the Lamu Archipelago. The Fort is the only Fort on the East African Coast built by local inhabitants as the Forts in Lamu and Mombasa, Lamu Fort and Fort Jesus respectively, were built by foreigners. Siyu Fort was gazetted as a national monument in 1958.
The history of this Swahili town (Siyu) dates from at least the 15th century, however, as no major excavations have been done in Siyu its age is not known, but might date from the 13th century. According to oral tradition the Fort was constructed in the 19th century was by one of Siyu leaders, a Sheikh according to some sources, called Bwana Mataka whose full name was Mohammed Ishaq bin Mbarak bin Mohamed bin Oman Famau. It was meant to safeguard Siyu residents from Omani Arabs domination. Siyu earned historical fame by withstanding several battles against the Sultans of Zanzibar. Siyu was one of the last towns to along the whole of the East African coast to succumb to Zanzibar’s dominance at the time of defeat in 1863.
The Fort built of coral has a small mosque within it. Bwana Mataka also rebuilt parts of the town and built a castle for himself whose remains can be seen today. Apart from the Fort, Siyu is also host to the remains of numerous tombs and mosques.