Home Institution

Bowdoin College

Publication Date

Fall 2021

Program Name

Senegal: Global Security and Religious Pluralism


Located in the Oussouye Department approximately 43 kilometers away from the city of Ziguinchor in the Basse Casamance region of southern Senegal is the Oussouye commune where I had the pleasure of staying for three weeks. I had learned that the inhabitants of this village were not significantly impacted by the Covid-19 virus since it became global knowledge at the start of 2020. As of March 2020, the village had only reported 69 active cases and the department saw only 8 deaths in total. I sought to figure out what could be the cause of this and through a series of small interviews, it became very apparent that the inhabitants of Oussouye have very good intuition when it comes to risk management.

I interviewed 6 members of the royal family, including the 1st queen of Oussouye and I spoke with two doctors, one from Ziguinchor and another from the hospital in the Oussouye compound. As I spent more and more time in the village, one thing became very clear. There was no Covid in Oussouye or at the very least, there was a common agreement amongst the villagers that Oussouye had been spared by the pandemic. The inhabitants of this village were able to make it through this public health crisis because they had a multi layered plan. Their plan was based on science, intuition and God.

During the first six months of the pandemic, the inhabitants of Oussouye followed government recommendations for Covid. They wore masks, washed their hands frequently and before entering others’ homes, stayed at home and avoided unnecessary travel. The villagers also relied on divine intervention to keep themselves safe. For the first 5 months, the inhabitants of Oussouye prayed, offered sacrifices and performed ceremonies so Covid would miss their home.

The villagers have a monotheistic religion with ancestral spirits at the essence of it. The bakin (pl. ukin) or sacred shrine is an intermediary between the people and God. These shrines are used to invoke the spirits to ask for protection, healing, guidance or to resolve specific issues.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Health Communication | Health Policy | Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Article Location