The controversy and conflict over cemetery places in Wolaita need scholarly and governmental attentions because displacing the existing cemeteries and emerging demands for new cemeteries due to urbanization and other factors make cemetery issues become challenging. This study intends to further explore the challenging nature of cemetery issues in rural and urban areas from different perspectives. The qualitative anthropological approach has been used to explore the issue from the local context intensively. Key informant interview, observation, and focus group discussions have been used to collect data from the field. Evidences show that urbanization together with increasing population number and limitless expansion of new religious institutions have inflated demands for new public cemetery places in urban areas. The shortage of cultivable land resource, breakdown of the early clan and family based social relation, and devaluation of sacredness of cemetery places discredited the early public cemetery places in rural areas. Rural people were forced to use cemetery and burial places arranged privately in personal land instead of using the early public cemetery arranged at clan and family level. Hence, it is understandable that emerging demands for public cemetery in the pace of urbanization and expansion of privately owned burial places in rural areas make cemetery issues complicated problem and accelerate controversy and conflict which needs research based intervention. Thus, government should establish flexible legal procedures to accommodate diverse contexts, and the government should provide the public cemetery places to all religious institutional in rural areas. The government should also inform the rural people about the socio-economic and environmental impacts of using privately owned cemetery places. The geological, environmental, health, and other contaminating potential of cemetery places need further experiential study.
Key words: Cemetery, burials, grave, compensation, recurrent conflict, Wolaita.
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