Abstract

The presence of ophiolite complexes in NE and E Africa has been documented using Landsat, field and geochemical studies. The present work identifies five major ophiolitic sutures in NE Africa, while plate reconstruction of Africa and Madagascar suggests a possible sixth ophiolite belt to the east. The ophiolites are considered to be remnants of supra-subduction zones and back-arc basins. The ophiolites are dismembered, and their mode of occurrence varies widely resulting in different structural relationships. In Western Ethiopia, the Yubdo complex is formed of harzburgite which grades into a cumulate sequence of ultramafic and gabbroic rocks and metabasalts. In Kenya, the Baragoi complex is formed of tectonized harzburgite with dunite and chromite pods, a cumulate sequence of ultramafic and gabbroic units and a dyke unit. Trace element data from the Baragoi complex show a transitional mid-ocean ridge basaltic to island arc tholeiitic affinity, and the presence of boninites suggests a supra-subduction setting, while data from the Adola-Moyale belt (S. Ethiopia-NE Kenya) indicate an island-arc and MORB geochemistry, which developed in a back-arc tectonic setting. In Sudan, the Ingessana complex which has an island arc tholeiitic tectonic affinity indicates development in a supra-subduction setting, while the trace element suggest that the Sol Hamed complex developed in a back-arc basin.

These ophiolite belts represent sutures marking the position of island arcs extending to those in Saudi Arabia on a pre-Red Sea drift reconstruction and further south to Mozambique. The terrane delimited by a proposed Ingessana-Port Sudan suture and by the Adola-Moyale ophiolite belts as defined in this study encompasses an area in which the crust was derived from oceanic and island arc material. Relative age reconstruction across the Arabian-Nubian Shield in East Africa broadly indicates eastward younging of the ophiolite belts. Regional geological, tectonic and geochemical studies suggest rifting at c. 1200 Ma and subsequent convergence led to the development of intra-oceanic arcs and associated marginal basins in the north and narrow basins within the sialic basement gneisses further south in Kenya and Tanzania. This was followed by continent-continent collision which led to accretion of island arcs by gentle collision from the northeast in Saudi Arabia and severe crustal shortening in S Sudan, Kenya and SE Ethiopia as compared to Saudi Arabia, NE Sudan and N and W Ethiopia owing to oblique collision from the southeast.

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