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A republic in western africa, southwest of mauritania and east of mali. Its capital is dakar. The first settlements were by the portuguese in the 15th century and the french in the 17th century, with the coastal region becoming the object of much rivalry and conflict between the two until french possession was recognised in 1814. Senegal became independent in 1960. The nation was named for the senegal river, its main river, which possibly derived its name from a local african word meaning navigable.