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Like most Sahelian countries, Senegal has an important livestock sector that periodically is decimated by drought.
Niokolo Koba National Park is situated in the southeast and is one of the most important reserves for large mammals in West Africa. The population of approximately ten million includes indigenous peoples, and a non-African population that is mostly French and Lebanese.
A poetic etymology from the Wolof people states that the name derives from the local term Sunugal, meaning "our dugout canoe" (everyone is in the same boat).
The Republic of Senegal became independent in 1960 after three centuries of French colonial rule.
There are heavy population concentrations in the urban centers (Dakar, Thie`s, Kaolack, Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor) because of rapid growth of the population and deteriorating environmental conditions that have made it difficult for people to live off the land. The population is divided into twelve ethnic groups, each with its own customs and dialect.
The long, narrow Republic of the Gambia is approximately two hundred miles long, surrounded by Senegal's southern region.
Agriculture is based largely on the cultivation of peanuts, millet, and sorghum.
Dakar, the capital since independence in 1960, lies on the Cap Vert peninsula, the most westerly point in Africa.
The first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, a Roman Catholic who presided over the nation for over twenty years, was a fervent advocate of African unity. Senegal, situated on the western tip of Africa, covers an area of 76,000 square miles (196,781 square kilometers).It is bordered on the north by Mauritania, on the east by Mali, on the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean.Although predominantly Muslim, Senegal is a tolerant secular state, whose peoples have lived together peacefully for several generations and have intermingled to some extent. Terranga (hospitality) is a common word used by almost all of the country's twelve ethnic groups.This sense of a national identity is not shared by the Diola populations in the forest areas of the Casamance, who since December 1982 have been engaged in an armed insurgency to separate from the Islamized northerners.
The area that today is Senegal once was part of the West African Empire of Mali, Ghana, and Tekrur.The country takes its name from the river that runs along its northern and eastern borders, forming the frontier with Mauritania and Mali.