A republic on the west coast of Africa. The first French settlement began in 1626, and the area remained under either French or (temporarily) British rule. After 1854, France used Senegal as its base for expansion in West Africa. In 1904 French West Africa was established, with its capital at Dakar, Senegal's capital. French West African stamps were used 1944-59. In 1958, Senegal became an autonomous state within the French Union, and in 1959 it joined with the French Sudan to form the Federation of Mali. Senegal withdrew from the union in 1960, and on June 26, 1960, became independent. It retains close ties with France.