NAIROBI – Kenya's Supreme Court rejected bids Monday to invalidate last month's rerun presidential election, closing one front in the country's deepening political battles but touching off fresh unrest among opponents of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The court's chief justice, David Maraga, said there was no legal merits to support the challenges against the outcome of the Oct. 26 election in which Kenyatta coasted to victory amid a boycott by his main rival, Raila Odinga.
The vote was forced after the same high court stunned Kenya in September by nullifying the results of the original August presidential election won by Kenyatta, citing voting irregularities.
The latest decision cleared the way for Kenyatta's inauguration next week. But it also highlighted the volatile mix of tribal and political fissures that threaten further instability in a country that has been anchor of relative stability and economic growth in East Africa.
Shortly after the court decision, violence broke out in Nairobi slum Kibera, one of Odinga's strongholds. At least one boy was killed by a stray bullet, according to witnesses.
In sharp contrast, celebrations immediately broke out outside the court where supporters of Kenyatta's Jubilee Party had gathered, decked out in the party colors and waving Kenyan flags.
Odinga dismissed Monday's court decision, saying it was made under coercion and insisted that the government and the election remained illegitimate.
"It was a decision taken under duress. We do not condemn the court, we sympathize with it," said the statement.
Last month, Odinga pulled out of the rerun at the last minute, saying the new elections would be flawed as well since the commission overseeing the contest had not been reformed.
But supporters of Kenyatta were joyous.
"It is time to move forward – he is the best leader compared to Odinga that can lead us into prosperity," said Josphat Ngumi in Nairobi's city center. "Leaders should now work on healing the ethnic divide that they have created to access their various political mileage."
The roughly even division between Kenyatta and Odinga supporters is based largely on ethnic lines, between the Kenyatta's Kikuyu tribe and Odinga's Luo, raising the fears of ethnic clashes.
In the Kibera slum, the scene of many clashes between police and opposition supporters, merchants began removing their wares from their shops out of fears of unrest.
Dozens have been killed during demonstrations since the August election and police have been accused of using excessive force with Odinga supporters.
On Friday, local media said at least five people were killed when police fired tear gas and then bullets at Odinga supporters seeking to welcome him home. Odinga's motorcade was then blocked by police from attending a rally at Uhuru Park.
George Owino, a Kibera resident, said the planned inauguration of Kenyatta next week should not go forward.
"If they swear in Kenyatta, we hope to swear in Odinga," he said.