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KENYA: Africa splitting into two

The tear, which continues to grow, caused part of the Nairobi-Narok highway to collapse and was accompanied by seismic activity in the area

What the Kenya earth collapse means for Uganda

Kampala, Uganda | INDEPENDENT TEAM & AGENCIES | Western Uganda’s border will one day be one endless ocean shore with beaches similar to those at Mombasa and other coastal regions.

This is one of the remarkable predictions being discussed since a large crack, stretching several kilometres, made a sudden appearance recently in the Rift Valley Province of south-western Kenya.

The tear, which continues to grow, caused part of the Nairobi-Narok highway to collapse and was accompanied by seismic activity in the area.

It is a dramatic development and is being used to amplify what scientists have been explaining for some time; that – in future- the African continent is likely to split into two creating a new continent and a new ocean.

According to one report, geologist DerejeAyalew and colleagues from Addis Ababa University are already declaring that an ocean basin is already beginning to form in the region. In 2005, the geologist and his team described how the earth split open in the desert plains of central Ethiopia, an increasingly common occurrence in the country.

Another scientist, Dr. James Hammond from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at the Imperial College London, is reported to have said the process of separation is in its “final part”.

Hammond has been studying this precise action in the Afar Depression (located in the northern extreme of the East Africa rift in Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia) – which he says is “the only place in the world on land where we can study the final part of this process.”

In this Triangle, hundreds of crevices are reported as splitting the desert floor and the ground has slumped by as much as 100 metres.

Hammond says that if we use the current geography of Africa, the huge new ocean and a continent that will be created when Africa splits would include all of Somalia and half of Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

But do not worry; Hammond says the slip is not happening any time soon. In fact, he says, it will happen in “in a few million years time”.

Note, however, that these scientists do not mention Uganda.

Part of the reason is that Uganda lies dead flat between two arms of the East African rift valley – and no scientists is bold enough to predict precisely what will happen when the earth moves.

Rifts are the initial stage of a continental break-up and, if successful, can lead to the formation of a new ocean basin.

An example of a place on Earth where this has happened is the South Atlantic Ocean which resulted from the breakup of South America and Africa around 138 million years ago. Ever noticed how their coastlines match like pieces of the same puzzle?

It’s happening now!

The East African Rift system is an example of where this is currently happening.

The East African Rift Valley stretches over 3,000 km from the Gulf of Aden in the north towards Zimbabwe in the south, splitting the African plate into two unequal parts: the Somali and Nubian plates.

Only recently have scientists begun to precisely figure out why these two massive chunks of land are separating by a few millimetres every year. The split is said to be occurring because of a “superplume”, a giant section of the earth’s mantle that carries heat from near the core up to the crust.

As the rift continues, it will eventually cause the eastern part of Africa to split away from the rest creating a new “Somali plate” and sea in the process. The Nubian plate will carry most of the continent, while the smaller Somali plate carries the Horn of Africa.

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