Egbesu is the god or deity of warfare of the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta region, and Egbesu is the spiritual foundation for combating evil. The Egbesu force can only be used in defence or to correct an injustice, and only by people who are in harmony with the universe. The symbol of the divine force is the leopard.
The ancient Egbesu cult of the Ijaws declined after the successful British occupation of the Ijaw lands in the late 19th century, and for some time most Ijaws only knew of the cult through folklore and traditional war songs.
More recently, members of the cult, also known as the Egbesu Boys, have been fighting against authorities in the Niger Delta in response to environmental and other problems caused by oil exploitation, and lack of investment of oil revenue in the local economy. Many young men have joined the cult, undergoing secret initiations by powerful witchdoctors who impart the supernatural powers of Egbesu. The initiation involves the subject being etched with cicatrices on some hidden part of the body, and some members also wear amulets. The followers often believe the charms and the cult initiations make them bulletproof.
- "What is Egbesu? Izon Cultural Studies". Bayelsa State Union. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
- David J. Francis (2005). Civil militia: Africa's intractable security menace?. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 81ff. ISBN 0-7546-4452-9.
- Rory Carroll (25 September 2004). "Rebels threaten Nigeria's oil wells". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 2009-10-18.
- Hilary Andersson (6 November 1998). "Fighting the oil firms". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
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