'Attempted coup' in South Sudan

The govt has struggled to establish a functioning state since declaring independence from Sudan in 2011

South Sudan's leader Salva Kiir has struggled to establish a functioning state since declaring independence from Sudan in 2011. Picture: AFP

JUBA - Gunfire rang out again in South Sudan's capital Juba on Monday hours after President Salva Kiir said his forces had quelled an "attempted coup" by supporters of his sacked deputy.

Kiir earlier said fighters loyal to former vice president Riek Machar attacked an army base in the early hours of Monday, but the military was in control. He imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

After the streets emptied, and thousands of locals took refuge in United Nations (UN) compounds in Juba, diplomats and a UN official reported hearing fresh shooting from around 10pm in the city's Tomping neighbourhood.

"We too have heard the gunshots in Tomping. Really urging everyone to stay indoors and stay safe," the US embassy in Juba said on its Twitter feed. Mobile phone networks were down across the capital.

The UN official, who asked not to be named, said they had turned out the lights to avoid attracting attention.

The government has struggled to establish a functioning state since declaring independence from Sudan in 2011 to become Africa's newest nation.

Kiir dismissed Machar after mounting public criticism at the government's failure to deliver better public services in the oil-producing nation, which is the size of France but barely has any tarmac roads.

The two men are from different ethnic groups which have clashed in the past. Machar has said he wants to run for president.

Furthermore, critics say the new nation suffers the same ills as old Sudan, namely rampant corruption, poor public services and repression of government opponents and media.