A poster widely shared on social media last August purporting to recruit members into a secret society broadly referred to as “illuminati” has unexpectedly triggered months of bizarre phone calls to the Nation Media Group (NMG) news desk.
The poster, which subsequent investigations by Nairobi News—a popular website of NMG — revealed as a scam, promised new members a “guaranteed” cash reward of $300,000 (Sh30 million) immediately they join, to supposedly “reorganise their lives in order to fit the class and status of the club members”.
That’s not all. New members were promised a new car valued at $120,000 (Sh12 million), a new house, one-month holiday fully paid, one-year golf membership, VIP treatment at all airports, “total lifestyle change” and one-month booked appointment with top five world leaders and top five celebrities in the world.
But there was a catch: the alleged swindler asked potential members to part with Sh15,000 as “registration fee”.
Inquiries by the Nairobi News established that the number where new members were required to send the money was listed as belonging to one Tonny Kimanthi.
However, in a phone conversation, he referred to himself as “Brother Mark”.
“Once you send the money we will give you more information. And we have a meeting tonight,” said “Brother Mark,” claiming their offices were based near a city hotel.
But despite the Nairobi News article raising the red flag on the poster purporting to recruit people to a secret society — real or fictitious — generally associated with evil powers and mysterious accumulation of wealth, the routine Nation news desk phone and e-mail contacts provided at the end of the article for general comments or tips on this and other stories have prompted an unexpected reaction since last year.
Tens of people have been calling the line seeking information on joining the illuminati.
The standard response of the Nairobi News journalists who receive the calls has been to tell callers such information was not available.
But with some callers insisting on continuing the conversation, and the increasing number of calls, the story has taken an interesting twist.
What is baffling is that most of the callers are willing to “do anything” to get rich – including offering human sacrifices — with some saying they were “desperate” to join illuminati.
Collins, 19, who said he was calling from Kericho County indicated he would even offer a family member as a sacrifice, if asked to, in exchange for wealth.
FORM FOUR LEAVER
“I am a Form Four leaver currently doing odd jobs where I make Sh200 a day,” he said.
A small-scale trader in Mombasa who gave her name as Jane has called the line more than 10 times begging to join the “movement”.
She said in the past, she had lost Sh2,000 by phony recruiters but she believed this was credible — despite being informed it was probably a scam.
“Maisha huku ni ngumu. Mimi ninataka shida iniondokee (Life out here is tough. I want to be rich),” she said, adding she was willing to do anything to be recruited.
It was no different for Mark of Kitengela who disturbingly admitted that he would offer his brother to join the “movement”.
“Mnataka kama nani hivi? Brother si anatosha?” he said.
Many callers were dismissed after saying what they wanted—but the calls have not stopped coming.
Prof Halimu Shauri a sociologist at Pwani University argues that Kenya is at metaphysical – the second stage of societal development -- after the theological.
“Under theological (the first) stage, success is attributed to a supernatural power like God.
People then quickly transition to a stage called metaphysical where everything is attributed to forces such as witchcraft and magic.
That is why so many people are willing to join illuminati,” he said.
He added: “Most societies take time to move from this stage onto the third and final one –the scientific stage, where everything is attributed to certain causes.
For instance, I’m poor because I’m lazy.”
For his part, Mr James Mbugua, a counselling psychologist at the African Nazarene University, argues that it depends with the role models in a society.
“In Kenya, you decide to follow the proper road but you see other people using the wrong side and arriving faster. So, you also decide to join the wrong side,” he said.
“When leaders send expired drugs to hospitals, they are as bad as these people willing to sacrifice their loved ones for quick riches.
As a society, we need to re-look at our set up and reward merit, not nepotism or tribalism.”
Prof Shauri cites the murder of albinos in Tanzania and bald men in Mozambique as examples that societies are normalising bizarre means of acquiring wealth.
One of the most little understood groups, illuminati is characterised as an elite organisation of influential individuals the world over.
Originally founded in the 1700s in Europe to oppose State oppression, superstition and religious influence, the movement has undergone a complete metamorphosis in the modern society but some claim it is a gathering of devil-worshippers.