Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has described his meeting in Washington last week with Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as “a gigantic step forward” in solving the crisis caused by undeclared government-guaranteed loans in excess of a billion US dollars.

Speaking to reporters at the end of his four day working visit to the United States, Nyusi declared that the question of the country’s public debt was a matter of interest to all Mozambicans, and he had discussed it in meetings with leaders of the World Bank and of what he called “our main partner”, the IMF.

At his meeting with Lagarde the two reviewed what had been done following the earlier visits to Washington by Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario and Finance Minister Adriano Maleiane. Measures had been decided then, and were being followed up.

“But we need a gigantic step forward”, stressed Nyusi, as reported by the independent television station STV. “The country cannot remain blocked economically and financially because of procedures that show a lack of transparency”.

Hence there would now be an audit of the loans contracted in 2013-2014, under the previous government, led by President Armando Guebuza. This would be “an independent audit”, headed by the Mozambican Attorney-General’s Office.

It would be an audit of the companies that benefitted from the loan, but not of the general finances of Mozambique, said Nyusi. “We are all satisfied with this, and it is in the interests of the Mozambican people”, he added.

The hidden loans went to two security-linked companies, Proindicus and Mozambique Asset Management (MAM), for 622 and 535 million dollars respectively, borrowed from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia. A third company, EMATUM (Mozambique Tuna Company), also took out a government guaranteed loan for an 850 million dollar bond issue in 2013. This, however, was not concealed, and it is not yet clear whether it will be covered in the terms of the audit.

Taken together, the EMATUM, Proindicus and MAM loans amounted to over two billion dollars, and added 20 per cent to Mozambique’s foreign debt burden.

When the Proindcus and MAM loans became public knowledge in April, the IMF, the World Bank, and all the partners who had been providing direct support to the state budget cut off financial aid to Mozambique. Since then the government has been struggling to restore normal relations.

As for the conflict between the government’s defence and security forces and gunmen of the Renamo rebels, Nyusi said that in all his meetings in Washington, those he spoke to lamented the continued existence of an armed political party in Mozambique.

He insisted on continued dialogue with Renamo to achieve peace, and suggested that this path enjoys the full support of the US government.

Although his working visit to the US is now over, Nyusi is remaining on American soil in order to attend the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. This year, the General Assembly is taking as its theme: “Sustainable Development Goals – universal impulse to transform the world”.