Innsbruck/Sheikh (22 October 2003) - On the day after the murder of British couple Richard and Enid Eyeington in Somaliland, grief and devastation prevail among SOS Children's Village staff worldwide - in particular among the teachers and pupils at the SOS Secondary School in Sheikh.
Richard and Enid Eyeington were shot by gunmen, still unidentified, on Monday night. The couple were key in establishing and directing the school in Somaliland, which reopened in January 2003 following twenty years of closure.
Pupils and teachers as well as the local community neighbouring the boarding school are in shock and are trying to support one another at this difficult time. Locals in the surrounding areas are showing their solidarity, expressing sympathy and offering support. The SOS school will remain closed for a period of two weeks. Today four Kenyan teachers from the school were flown out to Nairobi - the bodies of Richard and Enid were transported on the same flight provided free of charge by ECHO to the Kenyan capital. At the request of the family, the bodies will now be repatriated to the UK, probably tomorrow. The British High Commission has offered SOS Children's Villages its support.
Claudio Croce, project director for SOS Children's Villages Somalia, met Somaliland's President Ryale, who offered personal condolences to the Eyeington family and announced that as a measure of respect, all schools in Somaliland will be closed for one day tomorrow.
Investigations are being conducted by the Ministry of Interior and the Somaliland police, who have reportedly arrested suspects for questioning. The UN has offered to provide support to the investigations where necessary, said Hamish Cameron of UN Security Somalia.
There is a climate of fear and insecurity among the foreign community in Somaliland, as the motives for the killing continue to be unclear. In response to the murders of Richard and Enid Eyeington, the EU and UN are continuing operations in Somaliland, but have restricted the movement of expatriate staff in certain areas including Sheikh. Only two weeks ago, Sheikh and Hargeisa were declared by the UN to be the only completely 'safe' areas in Somaliland for expatriate staff.
SOS Children's Villages has lost two invaluable people. Richard and Enid Eyeington dedicated decades of their lives to the care and education of children in Africa and could look back on a tremendous life achievement. During the last years they were the driving force behind the work of SOS Children's Villages in Swaziland and both of them possessed a wealth of experience in the field of education - something which for them was inseparable from the right of every individual to equality and emancipation. Their work at the SOS Secondary School in Sheikh was to be their final challenge in their professional and committed work before retirement.
Willy Huber, regional director for SOS Children's Villages in East Africa based in Nairobi, and personal friend of Richard and Enid, is deeply shocked. In an official statement, also on the future of the work of SOS Children's Villages in Somaliland, Willy Huber wrote:
"No words can express the sorrow we feel at the tragic loss of Dick and Enid Eyeington on Monday, 20 October 2003. Their deaths certainly leave a huge vacuum, which will be impossible to fill. All of us at the Regional Office for East Africa are devastated by this senseless act of violence against a deeply compassionate and caring couple who dedicated their lives to the development of Africa.
Over the past year, Dick and Enid have devoted themselves to improving the educational status of young Somalis. In the short time they lived in Sheikh they worked with great commitment, restoring the Sheikh Secondary School, building a strong and dedicated team of co-workers, winning the support of the government and people of Somaliland, and integrating the school in the community of Sheikh. In the process they developed a love and respect for the people of Somaliland, and brought hope to the lives of countless young people. We believe that Dick and Enid would have wanted their work in Sheikh to be continued despite the tragedy that has befallen them. We also believe that the best way we can remember Dick and Enid is by continuing to support the fledgling School, thereby making a lasting contribution to the people of Somaliland.
Naturally we will all need time to mourn for Dick and Enid; at the same time it is our firm intention to honour the memory of the Eyeingtons by keeping the community of students and staff together, by renewing our support and commitment to the school, and by fulfilling our promises to the people of Somaliland. In this we are sure that we have the full backing and support of the community of Sheikh, who have already offered their resources, protection and friendship."
SOS Children's Villages is a non-governmental and non-denominational organisation providing long-term care for destitute, abandoned and orphaned children in 131 countries. More than 50,000 children are being cared for at the organisation's 439 SOS Children's Villages worldwide. In addition, the organisation also provides families with welfare and educational services. Some 120,000 children and youths attend SOS Schools, SOS Kindergartens and SOS Vocational Training Centres, while more than 500,000 benefit from SOS Medical and Social Centres and SOS Emergency Relief Programmes.
*** Contact SOS Children's Villages
Mr Andrew Moir
Assistant Regional Director
SOS Children's Villages
Regional Office East Africa
Tel: +254/2/4449278 or 4446032
Ms Ingunn Brandvoll
SOS Children's Villages HQ